Recently, while reading “The Art of Doing Twice the Work in the Half the Time” by Jeff Sutherland, a book that focuses on a project management methodology called SCRUM, I came across a section that encouraged teams to put a functional product in the hands of its customers as soon as possible. At this point the product isn’t perfect, but the customer is able to provide feedback on the features and options they value most. The design teams then build a product that the customer actually wants.
This caused me to reflect on my current writing project, a contemporary thriller, which is like 8mm with a little Girl with a Dragon Tattoo sprinkled throughout. I’m working through the edits from my beta readers, which may double the length of the story. I had hoped to have this completed in a month, but it’s taking longer, because I’m focused on every sentence, and every word. Everything has to be excellent. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this approach, but in this scenario it’s very time-consuming and is drastically reducing my output. This, in turn, lowers my motivation. When my motivation is low, guess what, my output is even lower. It’s a horrible cycle, which I wish upon no writer. Then I had an epiphany: I needed to apply Sutherland’s wisdom to this draft. Oddly enough it is the same approach I use for my first draft, when I want to get a manuscript to my beta readers quickly. I know it’s far from perfect, and I know that I’ll have to tweak it, so why waste so much time trying to make it perfect when I can test the story, conflict, and characters early on with my beta readers.
So if this is a method I already employ, why didn’t I apply it to my current draft? Great question! I think I was too focused on trying to make it perfect before I send it to my editor.
I was also trying to skip a step and rushing the process. I didn’t want to send the manuscript out for a second round of readers, I wanted to go straight to the editor. When I talked to one of my beta readers, though, I knew I was going to have to get their feedback on the updates, it was more than good practice it was critical to the quality of the work.
If that wasn’t enough, serendipity stepped in. I discussed my writing with a coworker, who is a complete grammarian, and because he liked my short suspense novel “Waiting for Howard”, he agreed to read through my thriller. This was a huge motivational boost.
My wife tells me that one of my strengths as a writer is my ability to rewrite. It’s when my analytical brain jumps into action, and I can see and hear what does and doesn’t fit. I read dialogue aloud, and if it doesn’t sound like the way people actually talk I rewrite it until it does. Sometimes I’ll speak dialogue as I’m writing it, but it’s not the same. Having the ability to review a section of writing, especially dialogue, is crucial to the structural integrity of the manuscript.
On may argue that it’s a waste of time to rewrite excessively, because that time can be put into releasing a superb initial draft. I counter with the fact that any author is going to re-read their rough draft if not on purpose than reflexively and fix errors. So why not use this read through as a bona fide rewrite and spend the time at this phase with the entire document laid out. This approach, as I alluded to previously, is also more motivating for the goal oriented personalities. Accomplishments equate to confidence which produce greater output which leads to more being accomplished. This is the positive writing cycle, and it’s something to strive for.
Accomplishments equate to confidence, which produce greater output, which leads to more being accomplished. TWEET THIS