I'm going to go really against my own grain today. I'm someone who has no true first draft, who revises as he goes, who is happy to toss out 80 pages of junk at a time for a rewrite. I don't do the whole, "Just get something down," approach. I'm not even sure how to do that, honestly. It seems like cooking a meal and saying, "Okay, just grab stuff, mix together and see what happens; it doesn't matter if it's good or not."
So that's the reality in which I operate.
But it's not the reality I'm going to encourage today.
There are a lot of people out there, friends, colleagues, and strangers, who consider themselves developing writers. I love them! So many of them have things to say that are interesting and brilliant. It kind of gives me goosebumps sometimes to think of all the stories that are out there that have never yet been told.
So many developing writers, though, are focused on learning to write.
That seems to make sense, right? If you're still working out how to write, you should learn how to do it. You should read, research, and figure out the rules of the game. So developing writers spend hours sometimes absorbing writing advice and reading writing tips and participating in learning experiences. It just makes sense.
They're writing too, most of them, and they try to apply what they're learning to what they're writing.
It seems logical.
What's I'm about to say is so painfully trite that it hurts my teeth, but I'm going to say it anyway:
It is infinitely less important to learn how to write than it is to write.
I've had classes, workshops, and one-on-one sessions. I've been in crit groups. I've read books and blogs and articles and tip sheets and posters with chimpanzees on them. They've all contributed something to my development as a writer.
But not as much as writing.
Last night, I was having a conversation with a fellow writer, talking about a particular aspect of her current WIP. We were talking about fantasy world building, and I wanted to send her samples of the kind of world building I was talking about. So I, of course, recommended Tim Stretton's The Dog of the North and then e-mailed her a couple quick paragraphs that showed how Tim gets the reader to understand geography, politics, and culture simply and with investment.
But I also went through my own back pile to find her some pieces.
As I was combing through the files, it really hit me last night: Dang; I've written a whole heck of lot. I mean, seriously. I have three or four novel WIP's, at least three completed novels, and dozens and dozens and dozens of completed short stories, ranging from 3 to 60 pages and covering virtually every genre there is.
So many of my friends who are developing writers have snippets that they do for flash prompts or blog fests, and maybe a dozen stories, and a couple short NaNo novels. That's great!
As I think about my own experience, though, I realize that where I've really learned writing has been by writing. Lots. Of all kinds of things. At length and in brief. Not sure how many flash prompts I've written for, because it's over a hundred easily. Then the stories. The novels. Poetry. Songs. Screenplays. Just writing.
It's amazing what you learn by doing. It's like -- I assume -- the difference between taking a golfing lesson and then being out on the links and realizing after 30th round, "Oh goodness, that's why I keep overshooting the green when I'm pitching from a sand trap, because I'm doing this."
Learning is great. All those blogs and crit groups and books can be helpful. But nothing is as helpful as just writing. Lots.
So here's my recommendation: write a bunch of stuff. Don't worry about comparing it rules. Don't worry about getting feedback. Write a bunch of stuff. Once you've written a bunch of stuff, then take the things you learn from agents and writers and readers and teachers and go back to what you've written and make it better. But first, write. Lots.