Writing is Best When We Get Out of Our Own Way

Image vis Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Yuya Sekiguchi.

Image vis Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Yuya Sekiguchi.

One of the benefits of attending the same conferences year after year is I get to see which writers are published and which aren’t. Which writers finished the book, and which ones haven’t. It’s staggering how many authors I know who have been working on the same manuscript for two, three, five or even ten years. As NYTBSA Bob Mayer likes to say, “They are just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.”

I confess, I was once guilty of this behavior, too. I would absolutely edit my WIPs to DEATH, and this behavior made it impossible to finish. Thankfully, blogging and writing non-fiction has helped tremendously with my fiction. I have learned to overcome perfectionism and ship.

Just Tell the D@&% Story

I recently finished a novel, but I will confess that, as I wrote, it was sooooo tempting to go back and edit, correct, perfect every sentence. This time? I didn’t. Every time I was tempted to go back, re-plot, adjust the story, revise, I just said to myself, “Kristen, just tell the d@&% story.”

This is why the simple act of knowing what your story problem is and where it will end is VITAL.

My story problem?

A former Dallas socialite is blackballed after her con-man fiance vanishes with a half a billion dollars in stolen money, leaving her as the FBI’s favorite suspect. Homeless and broke, she’s forced to move in with her crazy trailer trash family, where she soon discovers that solving her mother’s fifteen-year-old murder is the only way to uncover a massive criminal network before they kill her and everyone she loves.

This means my mind has a checklist of everything that needs solving regarding plot. Likely, the book will end with 1) solving the murder 2) exposing the criminal network and 3) finding the missing fiance and the stolen money.

Knowing how your character needs to change is also VITAL.

Character-wise, there is also a mental checklist. I know who my protagonist is in the beginning and where she needs to be by the end. This helps tremendously because, as I wrote, my protagonist would say or do certain things and my mind would inject, “Uh uh. She isn’t that evolved yet.” Or “Um, she needs to have grown up a little bit by now.”

Simply knowing those two elements: What is the problem that must be solved by the end? How does my protagonist have to change in order to earn the title “hero”? These two critical pieces can help you get out of your own way. I learned this cool stuff from Bob, by the way, so take his classes if you can or go to his retreat. Will change your life.

Learning to R-TUTE (Yes, you can giggle)


I recall, as I was writing my latest book, my hands seemed to take on a life of their own. I would add in an unplanned character or an unforeseen (seemingly meaningless) detail. Not too long ago, I would have backspaced over these moments of serendipity, convinced they were stupid because “they weren’t part of the outline.”

Yet, by the time I reached the end of my novel, I was blown away at how those “unplanned” details and players had coalesced into a multi-layered story I’m unsure I could’ve consciously plotted.

Your subconscious is your best friend. Premature editing can uproot the unconscious seeds of brilliance. Premature editing can kill momentum.


The Force was more interesting before it was EXPLAINED. Metachlorians RUINED The Force. Same with your characters. Don’t go “back in time” to tell us why Such-and-Such is a brooding emotional mess. We don’t want to be your protagonist’s shrink, we want to partner with her on an adventure and watch her overcome her flaws in amazing ways.

Do you like hanging out with people who can do nothing but talk about their bad childhood? I don’t. Why would we want to hang out with characters (novels) who drag us to mandatory family therapy? We DON’T.

The Benefits of Writing FAST

We Learn by DOING.

We can read books about playing guitar for years and still have no clue how to play the guitar. The best way to learn how to write full-length novels is to write full-length novels. No one (but you and probably every friend and family member) expects your first book to be perfect. Get over it.

When I first played clarinet, it sounded like someone was water-boarding a goose. Practice made the difference. Practicing FULL songs, from Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star to finally (four years later) The Marriage of Figaro. But I didn’t play The Marriage of Figaro the first week I picked up my instrument. Same with novels. Keep writing and write to the end.

We Are Professionals

This is one of the reasons I do recommend blogging. We need to write every day. If we want to do this thing for real, then we have to take on the role of a professional. This means showing up a minimum of five days a week. What other job would let us show up when we feel inspired and not fire us? Who can take us seriously if we work when we feel like it?

Writing FAST Helps Keep Us Out of Our Own Way

When we write fast, we don’t have time to over-think and edit the life out of our story. Move forward. Press on. Especially new writers. You need the practice. More experienced authors can languish a bit more because they earned it. Eric Clapton can spend hours perfecting a certain riff, but he already passed the Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star Test. 

Keep pressing and practicing. Every book makes you a better writer! Eventually you will be executing the literary equivalent of The Marriage of Figaro and can leave Mary Had a Little Lamb behind :D.

For those who are curious about what The Marriage of Figaro sounds like on clarinet:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PQSH8OGwbdA&w=420&h=315]

What do you think? Are you editing your WIP to death? How to you resist the urge to edit? Does it involve duct tape and twisty ties? Are you struggling with finishing? Or, are you finishing books, but don’t feel you are improving enough?

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of May, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

And also, winners have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.

At the end of May I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!


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  1. I’m glad you pointed out the idea of knowing your story problem and character arc. I think a bit of planning can help avoid the R-TUTE problem. And maybe some Beano. 🙂

    1. If you don’t R-TUTE you will fill with hot air and EXPLODE! Yes, just taking off writing isn’t enough. Too many writers start writing without figuring out the big story problem FIRST.

    2. Right on once again. Thanks for the email and the reminder. I’m almost finished with my novel and plan to run through it one more time before sending it out. Along about Chapter 37 the writing really clicked in so it’s going to take a lot of discipline to keep from changing the first 36 chapters. I’ll print off your message and keep it near my desk.

  2. Excellent points! I think the best writing is done with a loose outline. I’m in the tedious process of doing my source pages for the non-fiction book I’ve just finished as well as in the exciting phase of writing my next book – a humorous (hopefully) fiction loosely based on a vacation my best friend and I took a decade ago. I’m finding a freedom with the fiction the non-fiction just can’t provide and am concentrating on just getting it on paper. The over-thinking is definitely not a friend.

    And I must say, the mental picture brought to mind by your “goose being water-boarded” made me laugh loud enough to be heard throughout the office. My co-workers are now assured of my tenuous hold on sanity 🙂

  3. Exactly what I needed to hear this week. Thanks!

  4. Another awesome post MamaWANA and a timely reminder for me to JUST DO IT! 😉 Thanks for the constant inspiration. MWAH! x

  5. Yes MA’AM! over editing is masterbating.

  6. I use this little wonderful tool call Write or Die http://writeordie.com/. You enter the number of words you want to write and in how many minutes you want to do so. Then, you’re ready to go. It only lets you pause once. When you don’t write, the screen slowly becomes pink, then red and redder until very annoying sounds blare in your ears. I find it an amazing way to write without editing and it has allowed me to finish four 75 000 words first drafts in the span of 30 days (that’s 30 days each, not 30 days for all four). More often than not, I start with no plot, just a vague idea of the beginning and the end. It works miracles. Editing is rough after, but a bad first draft is better than no first draft at all.

    1. What a great idea!

    2. That is SO COOL! I will use this on my next book. THANK YOU!

      1. My pleasure. I used to use the web version but since I use it a lot, I bought the desktop version. It’s fairly cheap.

        1. Stephanie, great suggestion. I use Write Or Die too. When you set it to Kamakaze it actually starts deleting words if you don’t keep writing. I get this sense the world will crash about me if I don’t put more words on the page. It’s awesome.

    • Melissa Lewicki on May 30, 2013 at 10:18 am
    • Reply

    There is a WANA tribe called “an hour a day.” Being a member helps me move forward and actually write–no editing, not backtracking–just writing.

    1. Forgive my ignornace, but how would one join such a tribe were he (or she) interested?

      1. Go to http://www.WANATribe.com. It’s a social site I built for writers. All kinds of tribes to help you.

  7. Water-boarding a goose – now there’s a memorable image. 🙂 Lots of helpful info. – and spirit – packed in this post Kristen. Thanks.

    • AMMahler on May 30, 2013 at 10:22 am
    • Reply

    First off, I have to say I am really looking forward to your new book. Given your summary and what I’ve come to know of you as a writer, I think I’m going to enjoy it!

    Secondly, this post is absolutely, positively all me. I have not been able to break myself of the habit of editing as I go. The problem with me is, if I change directions later in the story, I have to go back and edit what I already wrote. It’s a horrible process to fall into and very difficult to climb out. I like that idea of that write or die site!

  8. I have been following the methods taught by Natalie Goldberg for years now (sadly not continuous years). The first rule of writing practice is to keep your hand moving. You don’t have time to edit if your hand is moving.

  9. Fantastic advice. I’ll admit, I do edit a lot. I write first drafts quickly and let those little serendipitous seedlings take root, but then I go back and fertilize them… and weed them… and see places where they grew the wrong way, so I prune. I never edit during first drafts, but I do go back and make a lot of changes when I see that character motivations could be clearer, when I read over and gain new insights into the story, themes, or characters, or when I know the story could be better. I could just abandon the whole thing and start something new, but I’m almost there. Really. This is the last pass through, I swear! And I am learning a lot.

  10. Wow! This is so ironic as I just spent 8 hours yesterday editing, editing and re-editing to death the first chapter of my book! And while it felt good at the time to do it, (I thrive on organization and perfection) a tiny voice told me…”how the hell are you going to finish this novel, Deb if it takes you an entire day or two to edit one flippin’ chapter!”
    Thank you for your advice, Kristen! It was perfect timing for me! My mission moving forward is to continue writing the rest of my book…and to be “finished” under my projected six month time-frame! 🙂 First draft only! 🙂

    • nugrohokhoironingeblog on May 30, 2013 at 10:32 am
    • Reply

    Reblogged this on To A Better World.

    • Pam Fulton on May 30, 2013 at 10:33 am
    • Reply

    Kristen, I’ve been toying with abandoning my project and was having a hard time letting go. I now realize that I just needed to write the d@mn thing and not be so fussy about this first/second/third partial draft. I am guilty of every one of your traps for new writers. I suppose I haven’t paid my dues properly without falling into a few of those. Thank you for giving me the gumption to get it done already! My new mantra – WTF!! (Write To Finish) PS Love Ruth’s suggestion of the “write or die” tool, will try that, too, I mean, WTF? Right?

    • Debbie on May 30, 2013 at 10:34 am
    • Reply

    So the WIP is finished. How do we know if we should rewrite or in doing so we’d just be rearranging the deck chairs on the Tiatanic?

  11. “…write to the end.” I actually stopped my WIP a while back to write a short story. The purpose was to prove to myself that I could finish a beginning, a middle, and an end. When I sit down to write, I am productive. The problem comes from not sitting down to write as often as I should. Because my current WIP is based, in part, on a series of flashes, I felt it was necessary to stop and clean up the first few chapters to ensure I had some continuity going forward. I lost a lot of momentum that I am struggling to get back.

  12. This was exactly what I needed to read, as I’m about to start the first draft of a novel. (Oh, how I wish I could afford Bob Mayer’s retreat!) It’s really tough for me not to edit as I go, but I read something in a Writer’s Digest article last night that I hope will stick with me: “It’s impossible to create and evaluate at the same time.”

  13. Love this post! It is so easy to go back and re-read what you’ve already written for a WIP with the intention to get in the mood or remind yourself of where you are, but end up editing instead. I am so guilty of that. I write best when I write fast and don’t get bogged down with explaining too much. R-TUTE is going to be a nice reminder to resist! We need a poster. Maybe with a kitten on it.

  14. I love the music analogy because I think it’s a perfect way to explain the balance we need between studying craft and practicing our writing. When I first starting playing the violin, I took a few lessons to get the basics and then wasn’t able to take anymore for over a year. I played my violin all the time on my own, but I developed bad habits and hit a point where I wasn’t able to play more complicated pieces because my technical flaws were holding me back. I had to take lessons to improve as well as practice. No practice, no improvement. No lessons, no further growth. Same with writing. If you don’t study craft, you’ll hit a wall no matter how much you write. If you don’t write, it wont matter how many craft books you read.

  15. I learn on every project. I like your advice to move on to a new project. I also know writers who have labored over the same story for 5+ years. It doesn’t have to mean that story is toast, but writing something else might be the trick to getting the process down, then that epic book can be worked on again later.

  16. I tend to labour over things as well. Thanks for the tip of writing fast! Sounds like a good way to overcome perfectionism in the first draft!

  17. “Yet, by the time I reached the end of my novel, I was blown away at how those “unplanned” details and players had coalesced into a multi-layered story I’m unsure I could’ve consciously plotted.”
    Kristen, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had this happen to me. I write something and I have no clue why, what it’s use will be, but then later it becomes all important. I’ve had very inconsequential remarks become the core of the entire book. Love it when that happens, when the mechanical becomes the magical. Great post!

  18. I really enjoyed this article. As a newer novelist I know I sometimes get bogged down by unimportant details too early in a story. And I tend to edit when writing would be more beneficial.

    • Allison C on May 30, 2013 at 11:23 am
    • Reply

    I finally learned this lesson after 5 years of writing, and 2 years in a critique group. I would submit to the group, then go back and edit the changes and resubmit. I finally would get bored with my WIP, and move on to another project, then get bored with it. I just finished a manuscript and I did NOT let myself go back and edit it. And I love this story and the characters the most of all! I hated for it to end. I had 3 unplanned characters pop up in this one. They just walked onto the page, happy as you please, and slid right in to the storyline. I was SHOCKED. I felt like a real author at that point, having heard others talk about the same thing happening to them.

  19. I am such a PLOTTER (as a mystery writer, it’s a curse), and when I’m not entirely satisfied with my outline but know that I can’t put off starting to write the first draft, I have trouble trusting that there will be “unplanned” things that will pop up and save my bacon. But then, sure enough, it happens! WTH? Where did THAT come from?

    The subconscious is a wild and cah-razy thang.

    Great point about the character arc, too.
    Thanks, Kristen!

      • AMMahler on May 30, 2013 at 11:37 am
      • Reply

      I am eternally jealous of anyone that can not only outline, but stick to it. I have a loose idea of the major plot points in my stories, but a better idea ALWAYS takes shape for me as I write.

  20. I’m an edit-to-death-er. Sadly. Yet I do manage to finish a book or two per year, so I don’t get super stuck. What happens is when I get stuck plotting wise (still happens even with an outline), I go back and revise earlier sections until inspiration strikes (usually at 4am on a day I won’t have time to sit down and write). So far its working for me, but there’s a definite frustration factor when it takes me 7 to 8 months to finish the d@$& book.

  21. I did fine with no editing on my first novel. But now that I’m working through my second, I’m having a more difficult time. This one is ‘serious’ so it’s got to be great. Not editing almost feels like procrastinating but editing is probably why I’ve made so little progress. Thanks for the post!

    • moxeyns on May 30, 2013 at 11:59 am
    • Reply

    There’s got to be a balance between getting stuck in that loop where you edit your first chapter – or even the first sentence – and never get on with writing the rest of the book; and having enough crafting hours under your belt to do the semi-wing-it thing you describe above. I’m definitely hovering indecisively in the middle somewhere 🙂

  22. I thought I knew where I was going, but somewhere along the way, I got lost. So yes, I finished yet another **draft** of my book, but it has a long way to go before it is ready for publication. Like moxeyns up above, I’m in an in-between place. I know you say we should finish, but I’m wondering if I should just scrap this thing. I know it can be fixed, but sometimes I wonder if this is a story to come back to later. After I’ve written something else.

    1. My professional opinion? Shelve it. Do something new. You’ve finished. Now finish something new and your subconscious will work on what’s flawed in the first book.

      1. So shelving is not quitting? Thank you for permission to shelve!

        1. Not at ALL. The novel I just finished was shelved for three years. The protagonist was unlikable. Over time writing and blogging I realized I could use my humorous voice and still have a kick@$$ heroine. the key was changing the protagonist and everything fell into place. BUT subconscious brain had been chewing on that through THREE other books ;).

          1. THANK YOU!

  23. I definitely need to pick up some speed and stop over-thinking what I’m doing. Good points – thanks!


  24. This. This right here. This has been my mantra for about two years now, and as a result I was able to finish my first full novel (minus edits) and am currently 4/5ths of the way through my second one. It’s hard sometimes to strangle that internal editor and toss her in the wine cellar, but I grit my teeth and struggle through it because I don’t want to be the person who spent her who life trying to finish one book. Press on, fellow writers, and always move forward!

  25. I come from a place where people are thinking about their problems more than being innovative. See what follows….Trans-Nzoia as the granary of Kenya yet more than 75% of the population live on hand to mouth besides 80% of the land being owned by 20% of the population. A large proportion of the population have been squatters for years on large tracks of agricultural land, some of which is government land like the ADC, and their livelihoods continue to worsen each day as even they go hungry despite being casual laborers on these farms for the even meager pay they are entitled to delays for so long leading to many children dropping out of school. The county is cosmopolitan a situation that is fertile for raising nationalists and patriots ostracized from the cocoons of retrogressive cultural practices and negative ethnicity. In other other words the county is one that can qualify to be referred to as Kenya in miniature.considering the issue of graduate unemployability; a condition that is threatening to retrogress development and relegate a given economy to mere invention of the wheel! This involves graduates of different specialties from different training institutions being deficient in basic work life skills commensurate to today’s workplace like; creativity, innovation, voluntary service, service to the community.

  26. as always–this blog is enormously helpful and practical– thank you!

  27. I had to walk away from a story because I didn’t know my characters well enough. I knew the plot, just not them. A year later, an epiphany gave me so much, so now I can rewrite the darn thing. But I am planning enough so that the writing is quicker this time around. But, I have not stopped writing. In the meantime I have completed the first drafts of 3 other works, some better than others, that I will edit after I’m done this one. But I will finish this current story, and send it off to my betas for feedback. I will just finish it.

  28. I used to have such a huge problem with this. I’d give up an idea because the “editing” was getting too hard. Also, I’d start writing with a character…but no story. No plot. No goal. So I’d write pages of meaningless prose.

    Finally, though, recently I’ve learned that I really need to know what’s the point of the story. And, well, that there needs to BE a story! At least some of it! 🙂 Since I learned that, I’ve finished my first first draft (wow, that sounded funny!). Now…I have to figure out how to edit, which is a whole other story. Anyway…what I was trying to say: YES! A THOUSAND TIMES YES!

  29. Every time I don’t explain why the character is a brooding emotional mess, the readers call me on it. Every time I do explain why, the readers call me on it then too. Sometimes this writer’s life is a damned if you do and a damned if you don’t.

    Knowing where and who and when and how is yes, something we should all know, but not all of us are plotters from the word Go. How do pantsers get out of their own way if all they know is how it begins and that it will end with a ‘And they lived happily ever after’?

    1. We can’t please everyone and remember, just because readers WANT to know, doesn’t mean it is GOOD for them. Leave some mystery. Again, The Force was better BEFORE it was explained. Everyone at a magic show wants to know HOW he makes the woman float, but if he stopped the show and explained, it would ruin the magic ;). Just dribble out necessary details as the story goes on. Readers want to figure it out. Let them.

    • A. Eller on May 30, 2013 at 1:02 pm
    • Reply

    Hello Kristen.

    Your blog give us great tips and information. However, in response to this topic: As some of us are first-time novelists it would seem important that the first novel be as well-written as possible in order to attract attention. Previously-published, successful authors can perhaps afford to lighten up and just tell the story.

    What do you think?

    1. I think you need to FINISH. You will probably write 1-3 crappy books until you get one worth publishing. By the time you finish that fourth novel, you are skilled enough to easily fix the other three. Most writers never FINISH the book because they are too interested in perfection. A finished imperfect novel is better than a perfect third of a novel.

  30. I completely agree about shutting off the inner editor while hashing out a first draft. I’ve often been taken by surprise at how much better as chapter reads several weeks after its been written when at first I thought it was a pile of drivel. That said, I’ve been chipping away at this WIP for way too long, time to finish!

  31. NaNoWriMo saved me from myself. Before that I couldn’t get past my inability to plot everything to the nth degree. Now I know a general feel for the story and main protagonist is enough, and my subconcious will do the rest, as long as I can keep my conscious-self quiet. I have to write fast to keep her quiet though, she’s a noisy sod!

  32. I never used to have trouble finishing a story, but it seems now I can’t stop editing while I write. I’m a pantser who has no problem writing every day, I just don’t get much written because I stare at my computer wondering where to go next. This has never happened before and I don’t like it, lol. I just don’t know how to turn off that internal editor that’s suddenly decided to start talking.

    Thank you for all your wonderful posts! I look forward to reading them every time they come through my email!!

    1. Sigh. I SO love hearing that *hugs*

  33. You nailed me on the head. I edit and edit and then edit my edits and can’t get out of chapters because of it. But my comma’s and italics are perfectly placed 🙂 I have to take your (and countless others) advice and beat myself with a bat whenever I want to edit and just keep going! I hope to finish this the way I envision because it has the potential to be an amazing story if I can just get passed the first four chapters! Thank you for your words of wisdom and your always helpful blog!

  34. Boy, this is what I needed to hear while doing final edits on a completed novel. Must stay still focused and quite stubbing toes on the dang deck chairs.

  35. I’m sure I edit too much as I am writing the story. However, the “flip” side of that coin, at least in my mind, is that if I submit a work that I profess to be my best effort, and it has glaring gaps in the story line, how will the submissions editor view me? REJECT. “This ms is trash, and the author is an amateur.” Obviously, you weren’t suggesting NO editing, but at what point do we authors say ENOUGH! and send that baby in?

  36. I’m having flashbacks to our dinner conversation when you said, “Piper, why is there a scene with her making pottery?” LOL I totally did that same thing in my Fast Draft story last year – adding in a trip to the circus. WHY???

    But I need this advice, because I never finished a draft. I just kept re-editing the beginning to death. I’m doing much better with this latest project and forging ahead. I make notes if I want to go to back to something, but I won’t let myself really edit it. Not yet. And that’s been a hard lesson to learn. My favorite way to practice this is the word sprints on twitter. If you have to tell someone your word count in an hour, you can’t be deleting all you typed and rewriting the same scene for that whole time. Best learning lesson!

  37. Thanks to Kristen for this wonderful post. And thanks to Stephanie for the fantastic writeordie link! I just tried it and it made me write almost 1000 new and fresh words!

    For procrastination help I would also recommend Tom Morkes. And for writing fiction and “the meaning of it all” I cannot resist to mention “From where you Dream” by Robert Olen Butler.

    Best regards from Sweden

  38. Hi Kristen. Just submitted my first short story to OneStory Magazine. I was pressed towards the end and finally just shut off the weaselly plotting machine and let the story go where it was supposed to go. It took rewriting a couple hundred words that sounded great at first, but on rereading didn’t sound right. I learned. It has to sound natural to the reader. No matter who tells you or what class you take if the story doesn’t sound right all it is are words strung together looking for reason to be there.

  39. Kristen, you have inspired me to get back to writing. I need a TENS unit to shock me when I don’t get my writing done. I am linking you on FB for SARA and SAWG. Thanks for everything.

  40. Another interesting blog Kristen. I think the reason so many people get stuck on the re-editing is because of fear. Fear that it won’t be good enough, it HAS to be perfect, people will see me as a terrible writer etc. The subconscious can be our friend or worst enemy in this regard, our friend because it can happily work in the background organizing our thoughts and plotting ahead. Enemy because it doesn’t want us getting out of our comfort zone when it comes to making changes in our lives. Of course the big change is our novel and by putting it out there it will open us up to criticism. (usually from people who want to write but can’t) So it sets obstacles in our path to detract us, we worry over the tiniest detail. I know a lady who every time she sat down to write re read her work from the very start, and wondered why she couldn’t finish her book. I like to read over my previous days work, A because I don’t plan the whole story and B, it makes it a little easier to edit later. It gets me right back into the zone, kick starts the subconscious and puts me back on track. I started writing 3 years ago for therapy and have self published two books, the third is ready to go in August, I’ve finished the first draft on the fourth, and a quarter of the way through the fifth. They’re a continuing series, and I’ve started a stand alone novel. So I’ve been busy. I find that the sequel comes to mind 3/4 of the way through the book I’m writing. The stand alone came out of the blue after watching the news, so it was a surprise really. What it all boils down to is: write like you mean it, don’t listen to the detractors, it will NEVER be perfect, not everybody will like it, (so what?) and those that do will be hanging out for your next epic novel, I’ve been stopped in the supermarket and asked, “What are you doing here, you should be home writing?” Come on I have to eat.
    When you have finished whether it’s going traditional or self published honour your work and send it out as crisp and clean as possible. Have Beta readers to give you feedback, get it Edited by a professional then you can sit back and say, “I’ve done my best.”

  41. ENRON was about embezzlement? I did not realize that from watching the news. I must have caught it on the tail end with the government involvement.

    It is how I got started. I had plenty of ideas but I would be stuck at 20K or a novella. It is why I edit. NOT re-write, edit. The red line, most of the time I have to stop or my mind is on the red line and if I keep writing and have a writer’s block, I can overcome it by re-reading and making simple corrections.

    The reason that I usually do not finish a novel is interest or decision making on how to end it. By starting on another I have a WIP started or finished a different novel.

    To keep writing I comment on anything of interest almost 7 days a week, like I am doing now.

  42. Editing and re-editing is my biggest hang-up in writing this is usually where I throw in the towel and say to myself “forget it, I can’t write this book, I’m not a strong enough writer, I can’t describe anything right.” I hate editing because it makes me question EVERYTHING about my story, my characters, and my right to be a writer.
    I’m getting ready to self-publish my first book, and I’m in the editing process now (I did write out the whole book, with no back editing or questioning, and that made me feel more comfortable, like you said I had an idea of where I was going and where my characters are going).
    I agree that blogging really helps, I started my blog to ensure that I would finish this book, and not give up like I had on the others I’ve started.
    I really enjoy reading your blog you give great advice! Thanks!

  43. Wow, 64 posts ahead of me! Your blog posts are definitely worth reading and sharing. I love your blog. I always learn something helpful. I just wanted to thank you for all your words of wisdom. By the way, Bob’s pretty great too. Enjoy both sites. Now, I’ll share on my blog.

  44. I can’t believe it’s been five years since I started writing my WIP. I’m stuck in the revising stage because so many things didn’t seem right about my first draft.

    Now I’m re-thinking a lot of the basics, like character back story and setting and even some of the plot. Is it ridiculous of me to think I still have a shot at finishing this novel that’s been in the works for five years??

    1. Shelve it. Start fresh. You are too close and too married to little darlings.

  45. Great post and much-needed reminder as I work on my next novel. Really enjoy your blog and your tweets. Very useful! Judy Christie

  46. I am soooooo guilty of this!

    I seem to be doing better on my current WIP. I suspect it helps that I think it will be novella length. I think on my other projects, I imagined what it’s going to be like to edit approximately 100k words, and I start to feel overwhelmed so I try to edit as I go. Since I’m expecting the current project to be in the neighborhood of 35k-40k words I’m not having that anxiety (even considering it’s part one of three, and will probably be packaged as one novel with three parts).

    It’s all psychological, I guess.

  47. I’ve always been a pantster so I can relate to what you said about your subconscious. However, because I’m a pantster not a plotter, I know that first draft is just me telling the story to myself so if something suddenly doesn’t make sense [to me] I can’t continue until I have clarified things. Trying to get past that point without fixing the inconsistency inevitably leads me into a crippling form of writer’s block where I may not be able to write anything at all for months. I don’t know if I’m alone in this but it’s the only way I can work. 🙁

  48. As i have started blogging recently about inspirational and motivational stuff. This one is exactly what i wanted to know as i take time to edit and posts my stuff. I am sure this will help me bring more in depth topics to my blog. Thanks for the article. Loved it…

  49. Reblogged this on Darswords and commented:
    NaNoWriMo have helped me R-TUTE. Now I have 10 novels and need to learn to edit properly to have something worth sharing. Still the journey of writing has had its own rewards. Love this author’s blogs!

  50. I love your blogs. I learn so much when I read them.

    Applying what I learn is the hard part, hence setting up my own blog. But other blogs and books keep me reading and replying and ‘liking’ and sharing. Now I need to learn balance. I learned R-TUTE through NaNoWriMo and have at least 10 books ready to rewrite or edit. The writing is fun.My character and worlds scream in my head to get out onto the computer screen.

    Thanks for teaching us!

  51. You’re so right. I’m going to drop the washing immediately and get back to writing (not editing). Thanks for more motivation.

  52. I love the section about writing fast to get out of our own way. I’ve been so focused on writing “the next big thing” that I labor over e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. No wonder I’m only 1,342 words in after several weeks. I will write fast! Thanks for the push.

  53. Great advice. I DO actually make some edits as I write, but that is a part of the way this pantser writes. I follow my hero…and at points I may miss a step. As soon as he corrects me, I go back and fix it. These are not line by line edits (those come after the story is done) but they are necessary to a cohesive plot and keeping my characters true to themselves.
    Love the examples from your own work. I look forward to your posts. Happy writing!

  54. Thanks for a post that pulled me out of the bog of “Oh, what’s the point?” Although, the bit about the Force and explaining nearly resulted in coffee spewed out my nose and onto my keyboard. 🙂

  55. Just what I needed this morning, thanks, Kristen! That really defines the problem I’m having with my current WIP – it’s not the story itself, it’s testing the various places it CAN go.

    Off to Starbucks for coffee and keyboarding!

  56. Thanks Kristen, I liked the Marriage Of Figaro, I threw the deck chairs overboard while I listened to it. Progress not perfection

  57. Just a comment . . . you nailed the process. Thanks for reminding me that I need to R-TUTE. I’m three years in and ready to let go!

    • Velislava Hillman on June 4, 2013 at 7:21 am
    • Reply

    Why didn’t you write this earlier??? I wrote more in a week after I read your post than I’ve written for the past three years. Ok, I had three kids at some point but, you said exactly what I needed to hear. Thank you for inspiring me. I can’t believe I’m nearly ready with my book.

  58. My big problem is how to grasp the huge task of editing once I have the book.

    • ecreith on September 28, 2013 at 2:44 pm
    • Reply

    Hi, Kristen! Someone commenting on my blog recommended this post to me. I love R-TUTE (I already do it – my M.O. is “spit it out, fix it later!”).

    Thnaks for this post!

  1. […] Lamb shares some wonderful advice on editing your work.  Check it out!  Writing is Best When We Get Out of Our Own Way.  Check out her book as well – We are Not […]

  2. […] Kristen Lamb touches on what can happen when you don’t plan. […]

  3. […] We’ve moved on. We’ve learned. And we hope they’ll like the next one. (the blog WarriorWriters helped me see […]

  4. […] Writing is Best When we Get out of our own Way by Kristen Lamb – Kristen say writing fast helps keep us out of our own way.  Another yea for WriMo. […]

  5. […] Image vis Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Yuya Sekiguchi. One of the benefits of attending the same conferences year after year is I get to see which writers are published and which aren’t. Which writers finished the book, and which ones haven’t.  […]

  6. […] "I recall, as I was writing my latest book, my hands seemed to take on a life of their own. I would add in an unplanned character or an unforeseen (seemingly meaningless) detail."  […]

  7. […] See on warriorwriters.wordpress.com […]

  8. […] Writing is Best When We Get Out of Our Own Way by Kristen Lamb. This is the pep talk every writer needs to keep writing. It’s full of reminders like: resist the urge to edit and resist the urge to explain. If you need a boost, this is the post for you. […]

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