Writing advice you’re not going to like.
People sometimes send me Asks wanting writing advice. I suck at it. I don’t really know how I do the writing, or how one should do the writing, or what one should do to get better at the writing. All I can ever think to say is “write a lot of stuff and you will get better at the writing.” Which is true, but hardly a bolt from the sky.
Well, as it turns out, I do have one piece of Legit Writing Advice, and I am going to share it with you, right now. If you were in any of my writing workshop groups at a con, you’ve heard this advice already.
Warning: you’re going to fucking hate it. But if you do it, you will thank me.
If you have a piece of fiction you’re serious about, something you might want to actually shop around, or just something you really are into and want to make it as good as you can…do NOT edit it.
Repeat. DO NOT EDIT.
As in, print out the whole fucking thing and re-enter it, every word (or use two screens). Retype the whole thing. Recreate it from the ground up using your first draft as a template. Start with a blank page and re-enter every. single. word.
I hear you screaming. OH MY GOD THAT’S INSANE.
Yes. Yes, it is.
It is also the most powerful thing you will ever do for a piece of fiction that you are serious about.
Now, let’s get real. I don’t do this for most things. I don’t do it for my fanfiction. But if it’s something original, something I might like to get to a professional level - I do it. You absolutely COULD do it for fanfiction. It’s just up to you and how much time you want to sink into a piece.
You can edit, sure. But you WILL NOT get down to the level of change that needs to happen in a second draft. You will let things slide. Your eyes will miss things. You will say “eh, good enough.”
The first time I did this, on someone else’s advice, I was dubious. Within two pages, I was saying WHY HAVE I NOT BEEN DOING THIS ALL THE TIME. I was amazed at how much change was happening. By the time I got to the end, I had an entirely different novel than the one I’d started with. When you’re already re-entering every single word, it’s easy to make deep changes. You’ll reformat sentences, you’ll switch phrases around, you’ll massage your word choice. You’ll discover whole paragraphs that don’t need to be there at all because they became redundant. You’ll find dialogue exchanges that need reimagining. Whole plot points will suddenly be different, whole story arcs will reveal their flaws and get re-drawn.
You cannot get down to the fundamental level of change that’s required just by editing an existing document. You have to rebuild it if you really want your story to evolve. You will be AMAZED at the difference it will make.
It will take time. It will seem like a huge, Herculean task. I’m not saying it’s easy. It isn’t. But it is absolutely revolutionary.
Try it. I promise, you will see what I mean.
*PSA: Tipsy!Lori wrote this post. In case you couldn’t tell.