You can fix garbage but you can’t fix a blank page.
That was the advice of Mary Burton at a recent writing workshop sponsored by the Virginia Romance Writers with Sisters in Crime.
She should know given that this year she will write four novels. Burton is a USA Today bestselling author, who has written 23 novels.
When Burton first began writing, she would share a chapter with a critique group, but she quickly discovered for her that the stopping and starting process wasn’t conducive because she would lose the thread.
Now she simply plows through and writes a complete first draft, which she refers to as “sloppy copy.”
To ensure that she gets through the first draft, she writes daily goals on her calendar. Some days it might be to write 10 pages, other days 15. The point was that having goals made it real.
“There is nothing better than an external deadline,” she said.
During the sloppy copy phase she doesn’t edit. She does in subsequent drafts. Once the first draft is written, a subsequent draft will focus on structure, another on pacing, until she gets to what she calls “The Big Read.”
It’s at this point that she prints her novel on three-hole paper and puts it in a binder to read away from the computer. “Your job is not to be nice,” she said. “You have to be the editor.”
Each draft will lead to a rewrite and ultimately should lead to a novel that is published.