Thursday I had a self-doubt day. Roni posted about her "I am a Total Hack" day last Friday and she pretty much nailed how I'd felt the day before. Do you have these days sometimes too? Days when you feel like you will NEVER be able to write anything worth reading? I have one every few months-- they stink.
Anyway, part of the reason I was so frustrated with my manuscript was that it is a first draft (which means it's crappy). The scenes are incongruous, the writing is weak, and I don't know how it's going to end (because I abandoned the outline before I'd finished the first 5 pages).
I wanted to go back and edit. I felt like I needed to muck out all the junk and fix all the problems with the first half before I could go on. But I felt guilty doing this for two reasons.
1. Every single thing I've read about writing first drafts tells me I shouldn't go back and edit until it's done (and had a month or two in a drawer)
2. I made the goal to finish the first draft by the time I go to SCBWI (January 29th), and if I stop to revise I won't meet that goal.
Then I decided I'd do it anyway.
One of my problems with general writing advice (be it from books, blogs, conferences etc.) is that I take nearly everything I read as absolute truth. I think, "Oh, she says I'll be a better writer if I don't edit until I'm done with my first draft," or "he says adverbs are the devil" and think it must be so. But the truth is there is no "best way" to write. There's the best way for him and the best way for her, but that doesn't mean it's the best for me.
Maybe I need to edit and rewrite as I go in order to find the story. That is what happened with UNDERGROUND. At about this same point I went back and edited the first half before I went on. I'm pretty sure there is someone out there who can use "was" instead of more active verbs, and still write a bestseller. I KNOW there are successful writers who don't write everyday. And I wouldn't be a bit surprised if some people are able to write great stories using truckloads of adverbs (in fact I'm reading a book right now that I think is fantastic, despite--or maybe because of--the adverbs). I think I tend to look at these, and many other pieces of writing advice, as absolute, but they aren't RULES--they're just guidelines.
I'm not saying it isn't helpful to know how one person writes (or how most people write), but I think I need to start taking writing advice with a grain of salt. I am the only person who can write the stories in my head, and I need to do it in a way that works for me.
So, yeah, that's all I got. From now on I'm going to edit and rewrite whenever the fancy strikes me. I think I'll still be able to write 1000 words a day, but I'm going to be deleting a lot of words too. As a result I probably won't make my January deadline, but who cares!
What do you think? Is there a piece of common writing advice that doesn't work for you? Do you feel pressured to follow a certain process because "everyone" says it's the best way?