Rules o’ Ritin’

There’s lots of them, of course: punctuation, word choice, active versus passive voice…

Here’s one I just figured out:

  • When you’re writing the draft, write the draft.

The key point? DON’T EDIT!

The reason is pretty simple: You’re gonna throw away some of what you’ve written, and if you stop writing and edit something to make it better, there’s a very good chance you will throw it out later. That time to edit and make it better was wasted.

When you’re writing a draft, it’s hard to know what to put where.

  • Background material has to be chopped up, run through a strainer, and then sprinkled in.
  • Things that come later have to be foreshadowed.

In my case, I throw out about 25-30% of what I write. [2023 Update: This should say that I re-write everything several times, and throw out 75% during that process.]

What I’ve learned–and am struggling to put into practice, more about that some other time–is that I shouldn’t compound the cost by editing “on the fly.”

If I write something and then throw it away, that’s one unit of time. But if I write something, edit it, and then throw it away, that’s double or triple my time. Worse, editing is slow work; it takes more time than the original writing. So it’s many times longer than writing the draft.

So, I’ll say it again: When you’re writing the draft, write the draft.

Eyes down, nose to grindstone, keep plugging. Don’t look at the previous paragraph. (First thing in the morning, it’s Okay to re-read that paragraph to get into the flow for continuing to write the draft, but that’s the only exception.)

Don’t look back. Never look back. Leave the drek alone. Forward, always forward.

Because, who knows? Maybe what you’re about to write is gonna be gold, or maybe it’s crap. But you won’t know until, weeks or months later, you can see the whole thing. Only then will you know what you need, where, and how long or intense it needs to be.

Fix it then.


But when you’re doing the writing, then write. Write. WRITE.

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