I highly encourage writing late at night, because it’s in those confused half-asleep hours that your mind just says “screw it” and lets your imagination go crazy.
As Hemingway famously put it (and please excuse my French), “The first draft of anything is shit.” Not only is this 100% true, but it is especially true within deadlines and Nanowrimo season. The first draft is there to write down anything and everything that the story offers. Maybe it’s self-explanatory, but the first draft exists for the sole purpose of a starting point. Another quote that’s perhaps wrongly attributed to Hemingway is “Write drunk; edit sober.” While I can’t necessarily say from experience that this works on a literal level, the idea behind the quote is perfect. Write without inhibitions. Write without judgment.
That’s such a crucial part of writing: putting your inner editor away until it comes time to actually edit. This is very hard to do; during Nanowrimo, I often can’t ignore my inner editor until about 20,000 words in. Then panic, or desperation, forces him out. Words come so much faster, so much easier, when you don’t judge what you’re writing.
Last night at about 11:00 I wrote about 500 words in 20 minutes. It was impulsive. I’d been stuck in a slow scene, and I knew I needed to move it forward somehow. So I just started writing whatever came to mind. I know the dialogue is stupid. I know I tell more than I show. I made my character tell lame jokes. I wrote this truly awful sentence: “Josephine shot him a straight-face look, her eyes measuring him up.” I’m not sure any part of that sentence makes grammatical or stylistic sense. But it’s there. And it will be there until the second draft. I’m not proud of it. But I’m proud that it is on paper and not trapped in my head.
Writing straight through, without thinking, is such a freeing experience. When you don’t judge yourself, you have the liberty to write everything without worrying if it is “good enough.” If you remind yourself that you can and will edit later, the crap that comes out in a first draft isn’t important. What’s important is that you have something to work with when it does come time to polish. You can’t shape a sculpture if you don’t have the stone.
So, yeah. I recommend writing in those moments when your brain isn’t fully active, like late at night or early in the morning. Put away that inner-editor and just write. In the midst of the mess, there’s sure to be a diamond somewhere along the way. You’ll never know until you start.
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Current wordcount: 22,021 / 50,000