(Crossposted from Allison Holz)


Revision is going to happen at some point or another, so the question isn't so much 'if' as 'when.'

For much of my writing life I was a revise-as-you-go sort of writer. Lots of published authors do this, so it is a reasonable method. When SJ Rozan came to talk at my MFA program in January, she told us that she writes new material every night, revises it in the morning, and then starts the cycle again the next night. I think of hers as the telephone cord method- looping around backward before going forward again.

I was never quite that organized. I would write several chapters, then go away from it for a while, sometimes weeks or months. This was also back when I would only write "when the muse struck me," so there were lots of days when I didn't write at all. When the muses appeared and the stars aligned, I would have to re-read everything to become reacquainted with my manuscript. As I read, I would start revising. But after I squandered the energy on all of those revisions, I didn't have much left for new material. I might get an extra page or so written, but never much more than that.

Even after my first few years of NaNoWriMo I still did the same thing. It took me until 2004, the year I won my first NaNo, to realize that the "write it all down then revise the crap out later" approach worked for me. I could finish stories this way. So from then on I have endeavored to take this approach to writing, both in the "write every day" work ethic and the "revise later" approach to editing.

A friend commented on my personal blog that as a short story writer she finds that she works better when she doesn't force herself to write every day. On the days she forces herself to write she just writes crap that she ends up deleting. She made the comparison to training for runners. A sprinter isn't going to need the endurance training that a cross-country runner needs. So short stories can come out in bursts whereas novels need that daily persistence.

But I should mention that, as long as you are consistently producing and happy with your writing, it doesn't matter if you write every day or just on the first and third Tuesdays of the month. It doesn't matter if you revise daily or at the end of each chapter or after you finish the whole book (or short story). Just keep on writing, keep on creating, and you'll get there eventually.
I've been telling stories my whole life, and writing them down ever since I learned how to make my letters in kindergarten. In middle school one of my English teachers recognized my crazy writer tendencies and allowed me to forego the daily writing prompts in her class in order to focus on writing a fantasy novel. I also wrote a mystery short story that year that got an honorable mention in a young writer's contest.

That little bit of encouragement sealed the deal for me. Ever since, I've allotted countless hours to the craft of writing. It's become an obsession and a desire and one of the greatest loves of my life.

Starting in 2001, I joined in with a bunch of other crazy writers on this thing called NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month. In the thirty days of November, several thousand writers around the world attempt to write an entire 50,000 word novel. This goes on every year and the number of writers participating has grown exponentially. I've won twice or three times since that first year, and the experience has taught me writing discipline. To win NaNo, you have to write every day. You have to push through blocks and shove the words out on the paper until the story is done. When the story has been wrenched from the depths of your mind and is flourishing on the page, you can edit and revise at your leisure.

NaNoWriMo taught me the most important writing lesson: if you want to be a writer, you have to make it a part of your life every day, no matter if the writing is good or if it is crap. At least you're still writing.

And the beauty of it is, once you're in the habit of writing every day, you feel unsettled and unfulfilled on the days when real life interferes with your writing. You start writing because you have to, because it's what you do, not because of the muses or a whim.

Not that writing is easy just because you do it every day. Writing is hard, but it's worth every bead of sweat and every drop of blood.

Writing is my life, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Welcome to my writing journal.

July 2011

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