Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Writing the Bare Bones

I've come to the realization that I cannot write a perfect scene the first time around. Instead, I have to get my bare basics down on the page. As the great Nora said, "You can't fix nothing."

How true.

Last night I wrote a very pivotal scene in my story. I really struggled through it, trying to convey the characters' deep emotions. But the longer I struggled, the more I realized that I didn't need to make it perfect. By allowing myself the freedom to just get the words down on the page, I was able to finish the scene and tonight, I plan to go back and edit.

I find that this has normally been my reason for writer's block. I would much rather get it perfect the first time around so that I can keep writing and not have to go back and edit later. But that's not what writing is all about. There are several quotes floating around about how writing is 99% rewriting. And it really is. In fact, one of my favorite quotes (and forgive me - I'm not sure who said it) is, "The great thing about writing is that you don't have to get it right the first time, unlike, say, a brain surgeon."

I try to remember that. And really, it's a blessing to be able to go back and change, rewrite, fix the spelling, insert more character emotions, whatever, because that way we can make it exactly how we want it without the pressure to produce something perfect the first time. Of course, there also must come a time when we say "enough" with the revisions and move on. That is the tricky balance.


  1. So, so true. Rewriting is far easier once a framework is down. Creating something from nothingness is harder.

    Of course, there's the dreaded revision death spiral where you lose all sense of perspective (like last night for me), but still, getting anything down on paper is a vital accomplishment.

  2. Gena Showalter writes her books on paper first. Very rough draft. Then goes back and adds all the 'fillin' when she's typing it up.

    I do the same, somewhat. Yesterday, while working on my new WIP, I just wrote dialogue. I don't know where they are, or what they're doing, but this is what they are going to say. I'll fill in the blanks later.

    You're doing a great job! Keep those scenes coming!

  3. I like rewriting when the bones of a story are good. It's when the story isn't working that I loathe the rewriting process.

  4. That's how I work. Bare bones that gradually get tissue added to them. Finally a bit of skin and hair. LOL--that sounds gross!!

  5. Toni - that's gross, we can't take you anywhere. LOL

    Melissa - that's what I'm trying to do now. Before, I would write and if a scene wasn't coming together I would stick with it until I became so frustrated I stopped writing altogether - or I simply forgot what the story is about. Now I'm writing, period. I'm not going back to look at what is being written (unless I need a detail). As long as I've written enough to let me know what I was trying to say that would work. Also, if a scene shoots into my head that occurs later on, I'm sitting down and typing it out then for insertion later. So far, it's working.

  6. Haha...I love the brain surgery quote. So true. I had to struggle a while to turn off the internal editor when I write, but after a book in a week session I was cured of that pretty quick. Now when I get stuck on a scene I just tell myself to get down the gist of it, and that I can go back and fix it later after my muse rouses herself from her deep nocturnal slumber. Or I kick her in the posterior, whichever happens first...

  7. That's exactly how I write. Bare bones, pounded out as fast as possible, to get the ideas on the screen. Then, later, I go back and layer in details, more non-critical movements, setting, reactions, etc...

    It really speeds the writing along.

  8. I've learned over the years that this method works for me too. Just write, then fix. Have you see Therese's post about this over at

  9. Good advice. One thing to remember tho, surgeons can hide their mistakes by closing up. Our mistakes get published! (this is one of my editor's favorite quotes)
    It's funny. It doesn't matter how many times we read or hear that the first draft can and will be crappy, we still strive for perfection. Gotta give our ego something else to do while we write those first drafts!!

  10. Anonymous7:38 AM

    Excellent, love it! Zocor grapefruuit


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