I came across this quote by Ernest Hemingway a couple of months ago and immediately fell in love with it. In fact, I’m going to frame it and hang it across from my favorite work station so I can see it whenever I look up from my laptop to agonize over the benefits of one word over the other.
I’m one of those people who have a hard time moving forward when writing a novel. While I’m working on my first draft, I try to make sure every sentence is perfect. Even while working on this post, I’m analyzing each word I type and constantly going back to change my sentences.
The desire to make sure every word is perfect the first time was probably conditioned into me by well-meaning teachers. In elementary school, we had composition class. During that time, we would have to write a certain number of paragraphs on a given topic. At the end of the period, we had to turn in our story for a grade. We were never given the opportunity to fix the misspelled words or incorrect grammar. And we did not have a second chance to tighten the sentences.
The practice of forcing me to turn in first drafts in which I was judged on continued into college. Before I was allowed to register for my first semester, I had to take placement tests in English and mathematics. The English exam had a reading comprehension and an essay portion to it. And, whether I would be placed in a remedial or advance class was determined by how well I wrote my first draft.
As I start the New Year and new projects, I’m going remember that it is more important to get the words on paper than making it sound right the first time. No matter that I will have to go back and proofread my work, because unlike my teachers, editors and agents do not want to see a first draft.
Besides, many of the words that I sweat over in my first draft will be replaced during the editing process with others that are ten times better.♥
Ursula Renée is the President of RWA/NYC. Her historical romance, SWEET JAZZ, was published by The Wild Rose Press in 2014. When she is not writing, she enjoys photography, drawing and stone carving. Visit her at www.ursularenee.com.