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Write Drunk, Edit Sober: A Guide to Writing Epic Shit

Epic bike ride

by Jennifer on February 20, 2013

Writers are finicky, troublesome creatures.  If it isn’t one issue hindering our writing, it’s another.

Since there are numerous problems that plague us, this post must obviously address more than one tribulation.

So here it is.  Let’s get you to actually accomplish something, make your writing totally epic, and tie the whole thing up with a nice, neat bow.

First, we need to get your ass off the sofa.

Stop Procrastinating

Check out what Piers Steel, a business professor at the University of Calgary, revealed:

In the 1970s, only about 5% of Americans admitted to procrastinating on a regular basis.  By 2002, the popularity of procrastination had rocketed up to 26%. 

What do you supposed the percentage would be today?!

Procrastination can be traced back to a variety of sources—laziness, lack of motivation, stress overload, and much more.  If you believe Denis Waitley, an American motivational speaker:

“Procrastination is the fear of success…because success is heavy, carries a responsibility with it, it is much easier to procrastinate and live on the ‘someday, I’ll…’ philosophy”  

But let’s not waste any more time on trying to determine why you aren’t writing.  That is just delaying your results even longer.  Shame on us!

1.  Perfection is overrated.

Anne Lamott shared the following:  “Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor.  It will keep you insane your whole life.”

Your writing might not be perfect.  It might have grammaratical errors that would make your high school English teacher roll in her grave.  But if you do the work, it will be a completed project.  And it will be yours.

If you wait for perfection, you’ll be procrastinating forever.  Instead, let your head and heart dictate your writing.

2.  Get in the zone.

Sometimes, all it takes to propel you to action is a bit of inspiration.  Take a look at what you’ve accomplished so far.  Awaken the muse.  Let your past writing act as a springboard for your current project.

But don’t stay at this stage too long.  If you do, you’ll just perpetuate the problem.

Get your brain into writing mode quickly and then write!

3.  Create manageable tasks.

Have you been telling yourself, “I need to write a book”?  No wonder you haven’t gotten anything accomplished!  Instead, try:

  • I need to create an outline.
  • I need to edit my last chapter.
  • I need to write a blog post.
  • I need to write two paragraphs for my newspaper column.

A study at the University of Konstanz in Germany recently found that people are much more likely to tackle a concrete task rather than an abstract one.

Break your project up into manageable tasks.  You’ll feel so much more productive when you are able to cross something off your to-do list, and that will inspire you to want to do more.

Now that you are mentally prepared to actually get something accomplished…

Write Epic Shit

Write epic shit.  That sounds like a very daunting task.

Epic.  Not mediocre.  Not common or run-of-the-mill.  Not even great.

Epic.

Epic writing is something that makes people think.  It inspires people.  It changes lives.  It creates value.  It entertains.  It leads people to take action.  It blows people away with its usefulness.

There.  That’s not so challenging, is it?

You can write epic shit, as long as you do one little thing.

You must live epic stuff.  You must experience life.

John le Carre said:

“A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world.”

Epic writing won’t just happen.  You need to have real life experiences as a reference point.

Go out and try things.  Fail.  Succeed.  Live.

Then, let these experiences guide you when you sit down to write.  After all, you must first inspire yourself before you can inspire others.

Sober Up and Edit

Since only the novice writer is foolish enough to edit as he writes, you—the experienced writer—will need to make some serious edits after getting the first draft on paper.

Here are three things that will make the process more efficient.

1.  Edit the structure and content first.

There is a very real possibility you will need to cut big chunks of material.  During your first read through, look for chapters or sections that need to be removed, added, or revised.

After the big picture editing is done, you can worry about polishing every individual sentence.

2.  Cut at least 10% of your words.

Writers tend to be unnecessarily verbose.  We write wordy, long-winded sentences that can ramble on and on and on.

See what I did there?  I used more words than was necessary—which actually weakens the overall argument.

Read through your piece and look for places where you have repeated your point over and over.  Identify indecisive phrases.  Look for unnecessary adjectives.  Cut it all.

3.  Do your final edit backwards.

By the last stage of editing, you are super familiar with your own writing.  This makes it too easy to slide right past errors and mistakes.

Read your piece backwards—start with the last paragraph.  This will make you focus more on each individual sentence.

There you have it; motivation to accomplish some pretty epic shit and then write about it.

Oh, and thank you to Peter De Vries and Charlie Gilkey for providing us with the epic, drunken inspiration for this post.

About the Author: Steve Aedy is an in-house content manager and a custom essay writing expert for Freshessays.com. He think that the best way to overcome procrastination is to take a break for a couple of days and fly to the South Pole. Follow him on Google+

Image courtesy of Saint Urho

 

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jen February 20, 2013 at 2:55 pm

Fabulous post, drunken or otherwise!

I think that one of the most difficult things to do is cut words, especially in quantity. It’s certainly necessary, at times, but doing that is amost harder than writing in the first place.

2 Jennifer February 20, 2013 at 3:59 pm

@Jen It definitely can be. But most of the time we have repetitive sentences and things that can be said more concisely. So that’s why it’s a useful practice for revision I think.

3 John Yeoman February 20, 2013 at 5:02 pm

Epic shit? Wow, if I’d used that word in my blog I’d have had 1000 folk on my list telling me to wash my mouth out. Then unsubscribing from my list.

But it’s true.

I prefer to say ‘Write garbage. And love it’. Every first draft is shit. So is the third draft. Welcome it. To go the long haul and write a novel, draft it first as garbage. Drop in the first words that come into your head. Just be content to hack out 1500 words a day. Lo, you’ve written a novel in 60 days!

Throw it in the sock drawer for three months and go play with the kids. By itself, it will write your novel for you. Editing it will be a snap.

Love garbage, I say! You can’t help writing it anyway. So lay back, enjoy it then joyfully toss it out. (Although, as an English gentleman, I’d never call it s**t…)

4 Steve Aedy February 21, 2013 at 3:02 am

Sorry for not being a gentlemen. I’m a huge fan of King and Martin and think sometimes there’s no way to use milder words to express the intention.

5 E.K. Carmel February 21, 2013 at 6:02 am

So much good stuff here, Jennifer – thanks! I really, REALLY like the idea of write drunk, edit sober. Makes perfect sense. I think I need to embody that idea a bit more with my next project. I’m so slow with my writing, working around all my other responsibilities, that the idea of writing quickly while still drunk with the initial excitement of the subject matter appeals immensely.

6 Kim February 24, 2013 at 11:52 am

What a fantastic post!

It is beyond frustrating that my brain refuses to cooperate with free-flow, stream of consciousness writing. It’s a battle every single time I write to not edit everything. But I know that every time I do, it’ll get easier… at least I hope it will!

I’m definitely saving this to come back to later.

7 Jennifer February 24, 2013 at 12:11 pm

@Kim What’s helped me a ton as far as not editing while I write is using Scrivener. It allows you to write each scene in a book on a separate document, then merges everything at the end. Focusing on one scene without being able to reread what I wrote previously makes it easier for me to stay on task.

8 nichola February 24, 2013 at 11:49 pm

thank you for the tips, i will use them for sure.

this works for me…
1) 500 words, any 500 words.
your mind will drift around and come up with something.
2) i must not do anything else before i write my 500 words…there is nothing more pressing than getting these words down!
3) coffee, lots and lots of coffee.

well that’s what i do 🙂

9 Jennifer February 25, 2013 at 7:45 am

@Nichola Having a word count goal as sticking to it is a really good way to stay committed to your writing and make sure you’re getting it done. Congrats on finding a system that works for you!

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