The Slash and Burn Writing Technique

on Apr 3, 2012
As writers, we have to set deadlines for ourselves. This can be especially challenging for the average writer, because we're usually a little ADD, enjoy procrastinating, get caught up in forums and chat rooms and always have our nose in a good book. In my case, I spend hours playing videogames when I should be working on that next scene -- so finishing a manuscript can take a lot longer than we'd like to think! Technically, if you can write 5 pages a day, that means in 2 months you'll have a 300 page novel. Sadly, it just doesn't work that way.

Then some of us have also developed a very bad writing habit: editing before the first draft is finished! If you go back and start editing before even finishing the story, you'll get caught in an endless vortex of tweaking, obsessing, writing and rewriting... and it'll take months to finish what otherwise might have only taken weeks.

I would like to introduce to you a simple remedy: the Slash and Burn writing technique!

I recommend that you "slash and burn" your way through the first draft just to get it finished. Skimp on character and scene. Throw in some random plot devices to plow through writer's block. Pull a resolution out of your sleeve and go, go, go! Give yourself permission to be a bad writer and just finish the damned book. Then, when you're finished slashing and burning through that first draft, you go back and edit.

And when you edit, you make a diamond out of the coal.

It's a lot easier to see what you're doing with a book after you've finished it. You can see the themes a lot more clearly, the motifs, the nuances of characterization. And you don't have the pressure of finishing the manuscript, so you can get more involved with each individual scene, each unique moment of your story.

So what is the true key to writing a great book? Well, finishing, for starters. But mostly editing. Plow through your first draft and save your talent for the second draft. Streamline your writing process. Getter done!


CL said...

Dear Theresa, thanks for this tidbit of information. Over the past 6 years, I've only completed three stories - and the only reason I completed them was because of a deadline. I think a lot of writers have this mentality of: "I have it all planned out, and it's going to be perfect - so I'm just going to take my time with is..." End result? You never finish your novel. I personally go through this every day (which explains why I haven't finished anything in the last three years). But after reading your post, it's really getting me to change my perspective, and instead of aspiring for perfect, I'm going to strive for "it's completely crap right now, but at least I'll have something to work with later, instead of a blank word document...forever." So thanks for this piece, you saved me writing life.

Daisy Simpson said...

Great post and great technique.

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