Oft heard advice to writers who are struggling, whether with a months-long block or a single elusive perfect word that stubbornly refuses to move from the tip of the tongue to the page.
You can’t edit a blank page.
Completely true. You also cannot turn a turd into a potato, even if it’s on a page. Editing does wonders for a lot of things, but when there’s something wrong with the story or the voice of the piece, all the word-dumping in the world isn’t going to fix it.
Never, ever edit until the draft is done.
I tried that once. I ended up with a 105k word manuscript that went through so many morphs and changes throughout the piece that the beginning wasn’t recognizable at the end, and the end was the end to a different story altogether.
This method works for a lot of people, and I have to think it must work better for people who plan a story before writing it and stick to the plan. It doesn’t work so well for me, who grows the plot AND characters AND voice organically from the ground up. Sometimes, those microscopic changes to a word here or there give the whole piece a new meaning, or the whole character a new identity. I hate to let those get lost in my unwillingness to make changes.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying those methods are bad. I’m just saying that they don’t always work for everyone, and they rarely work for me. Yet I hear that advice given to any writer who mentions struggling with words, in just about any situation.
Like all the “rules” floating around out there about writing, they are only good as long as they are useful to the individual writer and circumstance. There comes a point when rules get in the way of innovation and growth. I say toss them out and make your own rules!
What writing rules do you throw out? Do you have any personal rules that buck the common consensus?