Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Permission to Suck? Granted

When I started this writing game (biz? addiction? obsession?), every word had to be the right one before I could move on.  My first novel had about a dozen false starts, and even once I got rolling, I rewrote everything as I wrote.  The damn first draft took me nine months.  Hell, I could've carried a child in that amount of time.

And then I got a piece of advice...  Give yourself permission to suck.

Permission to suck?  "Yeah, right.  But I can't let suckage remain on the page.  I just can't," my former self thought in response to such a wild suggestion.  Except my need for first draft perfection was hampering my productivity.  (And thinking about it just this minute, I think that need for perfection was born out of fear anyway.)

Once I got over myself and got over the panic of leaving a lame scene alone to simmer, I not only increased my output, but I think my writing itself is better for it.  Now I can focus on the story itself throughout the first draft.  Because getting the story on paper is the important thing when you're first drafting.  Leave the editing for subsequent drafts - that's what they're there for.

Now, I don't want you to think I just type away and never look back.  I'm constantly doing small edits as I type.  I can't help it.  While I'm typing this post, I'm rewording and fixing typos as I go - but only a sentence at a time.  (In fact, this blog is a perfect example of first draft-ness.  I rarely deep edit the blog.  It is what it is.)

Giving yourself permission to suck, though, has it's own problems.  Sometimes I'll be typing along, pulling the words out my nose and splatting them on the page (gross imagery, I know).  The whole time I'm doing that, I know what's coming out is horrible.  It's premium, grade-A suckage.  At those times, I have to fight for that permission.  I have to fight against the irresistable urge to stop writing crap and wait until I know I can write something better.  And I have to keep myself from banging my head on the wall, but that's another story.

I've learned that sometimes I have to write through the fertilizer to get to the marigolds on the other side.  Or rather, sometimes it's the crap that allows for the good writing.  Case in point: DLN.  I wrote a big long prologue.  It was all crap, but it helped me see the backstory so I could write a better storyline later.  And now the prologue is deleted - saved into its own file for posterity (or further fertilizer, as the case may be).

So, as far as my own writing is concerned... Permission to suck?  Granted.  What about you?  Do you grant yourself the permission to suck, or does everything have to be perfect before you move on? 

(Top image shamelessly borrowed from SnorgTees.  Here's where you can buy the t-shirt.)  *All images deleted to avoid any chance of copyright infringement*


  1. Hmm, sometimes I let myself suck. However, with being so busy I need the satisfaction of knowing what I put on the page is good. When I try to just motor through, I dont feel as satisfied and stress creeps in.

    Of course, stress creeps in when I need it to be perfect too, so...


  2. I've given myself permission to write crap and it makes writing the WIP so much easier, as I dont waste so much time faffing about trying to find the perfect words.

  3. You said it perfectly. Sometimes I really need to take my inner editor, tie her to a chair and lock her in a room. Awesome post.