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>>>>P. just write and write.

Michael: I agree completely. I'm a technical writer by trade, which means I write all day at my job. But technical writing isn't the same as writing fiction (obviously): there are too many restrictions on style. (At least I primarily write white papers, which are more open than other types of technical writing, such as manuals and help screens).

Over the years I have found that my writing has improved somewhat, largely in terms of grammar and syntax, due to editorial feedback. (If I learn the correct way to use semicolons and serial commas I won't continually have to keep correcting them in the second and follow-on drafts, for instance.) Heck, even my typing skills improved!

However, the technical writing didn't do much for my creative writing skills (which had languished since college). When I first started writing my novel, I thought it was going pretty well. The story was interesting and the writing flowed smoothly. The more I wrote the smoother the writing became and the easier it was to say what I wanted. By the time I was up to Chapter 8, I reread what I had written in the first few chapters and realized that the latter chapters were far better written. If you have followed the story of my story <g> you undoubtedly remember all the hair-pulling and teeth-gnashing I did over how to rewrite the first two chapters to increase the drama and improve the dialog. And all that "growth" occurred in the space of four or five weeks.

Had I not decided to sit down one evening after work (after writng all day) and "just start writing", I wouldn't have advanced my writing skills at all since then.

As for editing, I concur with those who say "leave the editing for later". Don't interrupt the flow when you're on a roll. On the other hand, I don't advocate waiting until an entire novel is written either. I recommend writing for as long as the muse is with you -- an entire short story or one or two chapters of a book, but then go back and edit the first draft before writing more.

I say this for two reasons: 1) Who wants to do all that tedious editing all at once, after the fun part is over? and 2) I find that frequently while editing I spot holes in the plot, or other details that need to be taken care of before I get too much farther along in the story. I wouldn't want to have to rewrite an entire chapter later because of something I missed earlier. Besides, editing is a constructive use of time when you've run out of ideas for the next chapter. Go back and reread what you've written. Fix what needs fixing, fill in any little gaps in the plot, or in the dialog, add color to the characters where needed, and so on. Frequently, while doing this I get an idea for something to write about in future chapters--not necessarily a major plot point, but some little thing that will add to the richness of the story. If nothing else, it gives me a better "feel" for the story and the characters as I fill in the details. (I'm all in favor of writing a detailed outline of the story before you begin, if you can do that--some can't; but no matter how detailed the outline is, there will always be litle details, too trivial for an outline, that will pop into your head as you're writing.)

The epilogue of my book started out that way. Looking at the story as a reader (rather than as the author), I found myself wondering what would be the result of some of the culture-changing events that my protagonists caused to occur (by bringing home alien technology). I thought of a few changes that might have taken place over the next 50-100 years and jotted down some notes. I kept those ideas in mind as I wrote the last three chapters of the book, and kept thinking of new ramifications. By the time I finished writing those chapters, the epilogue had grown to over 1,300 words. I'm now finished editing the first 15 (of 18) chapters in draft 2, and the epilogue has grown to 2,000 words--almost a full chapter in itself.

I'm no Stephen King (at least not yet! <g>), so I'm not going to try to tell anyone how to write a best-selling novel. But a lot of people find it hard to get past the obstacles of getting started and editing. My advice to anyone in this situation is just start writing. Worry about the editing later when your writing has temporarily run out of steam. It's a good way to keep the momentum going. In the 69 days it took me to write the first draft, I spent 68 days either writing or editing. The only day I didn't do either I intentionally took a break. Otherwise I did some sort of constructive work every day. Even on the days when all I did was editing, I tended to add several hundred new words to the length of the book--all those little details I mentioned, for color or to fill in gaps. It's amazing how many words you can add to a book just during editing (I've already added 2,000 words while working on draft 2--a little here and a little there). So don't look at it as time *away* from writing. Look at it as an opportunity to do a different *kind* of writing. Some days you work on the forest, and others on the trees, shrubs and fauna. It all helps you to reach your goal.

That's been *my* experience, anyway. Give it a try. What do you have to lose?

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