Write Something Crummy Today

Vincent Van Gogh

My students in novel writing often hear me encourage them to “write something awful.” The reason I do this is to help students learn to separate their drafting (creating) from their refining (rewriting). I maintain doing both at once is a good idea only for highly skilled writers (and sometimes it backfires on them too).
Writing Tip for Today: Do you worry about the words you’re getting down? Here are some tips for creating separation to avoid short-circuiting your writing sessions:

  • Junk it Through. Author Ken Kesey (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest) reportedly told his writing students to “junk it through.” In other words, Kesey encouraged writing from beginning to end of a novel, without stopping to fix things. While you may be horrified to share a raw draft with your critique partners, by plowing ahead you are informing yourself about the story. Whether you are a plotter or pantster, discovery is a key element in keeping fiction fresh and original. Don’t be afraid to fail–remember, you can’t edit (revise) a blank page.
  • Kick Perfection to the Curb. When new writers read a  published novel, they often compare their own draft to a finished product. Most published work did not start out as wonderful as the end result! Take a look at famous authors’ manuscripts, and you’ll see lots of red ink, crossed-out places and comments in the margins. Your idea of perfection is the result of hours of rewriting and wrangling to get it right. Don’t berate your draft–it can get better!
  • Dis Discouragement. Hold your head up high when you get shredded by your critique partners. If your group is any good, they’ll have viable ways to help you make the draft better. It may take many drafts to get a piece where it needs to be, but if you adopt the attitude that writing IS rewriting, you may not feel so discouraged. Above all, never threaten to burn or tear up a novel just because someone didn’t get the message you were sending. Join NanoWriMo or set a goal to write something every day–even if it’s crummy. By adopting the attitude that you can improve whatever you write, you can shrug off the naysayers and keep making progress toward the best writer you can be.
There are only TWO kinds of writing: Writing that WORKS and writing that NEEDS WORK. Write something crummy today. You can revise tomorrow!

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About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

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