Critique of Traditional Writing Rules, Part 4: Write Very Rough First Drafts

Critique of Traditional Writing Rules, Part 4: Write Very Rough First Drafts
Continuing with Writer’s Digest 10 writing rules, as you can see at the top of this blog, I changed Rule 4 from “Write Shitty First Drafts” in order to make our blog title a little less, well, shitty.
Author and Pulitzer Prize nominee John Smolens recommends following this rule as long as you never let anyone else read your first draft. Writing is a lonely occupation, Smolens observes. You’re on your own to figure out what works and what doesn’t. Writing a first draft, he says, lets you “see what you can’t (or shouldn’t) do before you discover what you can do. And with revision and a little patience, no one will ever know that your first draft existed.”
Providing the opposing view, fiction writer and teacher Nancy Kress rebels in much the same way I did—against the word “shitty.” She does more or less agree with the rule’s intent of advising writers to power through a first draft without regard to how much may need to be fixed as you get farther into your story. “Relax and let it flow,” she says. “Trust that your voice, imagination and sense of character will be present from the first paragraph on. Then, in the second draft, sure, you can a) rewrite everything that doesn’t fit your final concept, b) change any word choices that need refining and c) research details you neglected while you were so caught up in writing this exciting tale. A mess can be fixed. Shit is just waste. And a first draft is never wasted.”
On this rule, really the two panel members agree; Kress just quibbles with the terminology. And I agree as well. Getting yourself to sit down and write is hard enough. Expecting the first draft to be usable will serve only to make you procrastinate writing your memoir—perhaps forever. Have no fear with that first draft, because you’ll change it and polish it. Once you have something in writing, the tweaking comes more easily.

Continuing with Writer’s Digest ‘s 10 writing rules, as you can see at the top of this blog, I changed Rule 4 from “Write Shitty First Drafts” in order to make our blog title a little less, well, shitty.

Author and Pulitzer Prize nominee John Smolens recommends following this rule as long as you never let anyone else read your first draft. Writing is a lonely occupation, Smolens observes. You’re on your own to figure out what works and what doesn’t. Writing a first draft, he says, lets you “see what you can’t (or shouldn’t) do before you discover what you can do. And with revision and a little patience, no one will ever know that your first draft existed.”

Providing the opposing view, fiction writer and teacher Nancy Kress rebels in much the same way I did—against the word “shitty.” She does more or less agree with the rule’s intent of advising writers to power through a first draft without regard to how much may need to be fixed as you get farther into your story. “Relax and let it flow,” she says. “Trust that your voice, imagination and sense of character will be present from the first paragraph on. Then, in the second draft, sure, you can a) rewrite everything that doesn’t fit your final concept, b) change any word choices that need refining and c) research details you neglected while you were so caught up in writing this exciting tale. A mess can be fixed. Shit is just waste. And a first draft is never wasted.”

On this rule, really the two panel members agree; Kress just quibbles with the terminology. And I agree as well. Getting yourself to sit down and write is hard enough. Expecting the first draft to be usable will serve only to make you procrastinate writing your memoir—perhaps forever. Have no fear with that first draft, because you’ll change it and polish it. Once you have something in writing, the tweaking comes more easily.

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Then just set up a chapter and start writing your memoir. Don’t worry about rules. There are no rules to writing your memoir; there are only trends. These trends are based on techniques and features identified in current top-selling memoirs. At best, they’re the flavor of the month. If you’re capturing your life in print for your family, for your own gratification or to inspire readers, rather than aiming to set off Hollywood screenplay bidding wars, these trends don’t even apply to you. You’ll write the memoir that suits you best, and it will be timeless, not trend-driven.There are no rules, but there are four steps:

1. Theme/framework
2. Writing
3. Editing/polishing
4. Self-publishing

You’ve researched this, too, and you’ve been shocked at the price for getting help with any one of those steps, much less all four. That’s because most memoir sites promise to commercialize your work. They’ll follow a formula based on current memoir trends, because they want to convince you that they can turn your memoir into a best-seller. These sites overwhelm you with unnecessary information not to help you, the memoir author, but to address Search Engine Optimization (SEO) algorithms so they can sell more.

That’s not what we do at Write My Memoirs. Our small community of coaches, writers and editors are every bit as skilled as any you’ll find, and we charge appropriately for their expertise and the time they’ll spend helping you craft a compelling, enjoyable read. But you won’t pay an upcharge for that extra commercialization, the marketing that follows, and the pages of intimidating “advice.” You can sell your book if you like—we have ISBNs available for you—but our organic process of capturing your story takes a noncommercial path.

If you want help with any or all of the four steps above, choose from our services or save money by selecting one of our packages. SCHEDULE A CALL TODAY if you’d like to talk about what’s right for you. One year from now, you can be holding your published memoir in your hand. And at that point, it will be a big deal!