There must be writers out there who create outlines before they write the first sentence of a novel. Designers who plot out the whole space before buying a single piece to put in it. Artists who fill a sketchbook before choosing a canvas for their masterpiece. I am not one of those creators. I just can’t do it. Planning more than a scene or two ahead kills anything I try to work on.
It makes writing fun, because I have no idea what’s going to happen next. It’s as much a surprise for me as it will be for the reader. It also makes revising more time consuming than it might otherwise be. When I start revising I usually have no more than the bare bones of the story and characters, like a sketch book full of form drawings. I know the structure of the story who is going where and how and to a certain extent why. But it still needs fleshing out.
Too many people, who want to write, get stuck at this stage. They look at this document they’ve spent hours, days, perhaps years on, and see that it has plot holes and the characters are flat and what was this scene even for? They get discouraged and they give up. Or, worse, think that this is their vision, their baby and so the world should accept it as it is, blemishes and all.
It hurts to think how many wonderful stories must have been lost over the centuries to these sorts of attitudes.
Ernest Hemingway once wrote, “The first draft of anything is shit.” But that doesn’t mean it’s bad. He said, the first draft of anything. That means “The Sun Also Rises” was once shit. So was” Harry Potter” and “American Gods” and “Player Piano”. When you write something truly terrible, don’t throw it away, (Please don’t ever throw anything you write away.) or lock it in a desk drawer and never let it see the light of day.
Instead, look on it with love. You created this. It is yours. Take the challenge you set for yourself and make this story everything you dreamed it could be when the idea first crept into your brain. It’s going to take a lot of work. But you wouldn’t be doing this if you didn’t love this work. So sit down, shut up and revise something.