Writing Poorly

Josh Shenk, author of Lincoln's Melancholy, made the statement that has become the mantra of my writing career. Mantra might not be the right word, but I'm having the courage to write badly. Here's the quote, in its entirety:

Get through a draft as quickly as possible. Hard to know the shape of the thing until you have a draft. Literally, when I wrote the last page of my first draft of Lincoln’s Melancholy I thought, Oh, shit, now I get the shape of this. But I had wasted years, literally years, writing and re-writing the first third to first half. The old writer’s rule applies: Have the courage to write badly.

So, this is an "old writer's rule," but it was basically new to me. And I can say unequivocally, editor-at-heart as I am, that it is incredibly painful. Reading, even glancing over the previous day's work is gut-wrenching sometimes. Repetitious phrasings, poor word choices, wonky dialog tags. All in the interest of letting the story take shape.

I was talking to a friend recently about this process, and how my process for writing Heaven's Forgotten was so different. I agonized over every page, every paragraph, every sentence of that first draft. I rarely moved on before at least giving a serious polish to the work I had done previously. And I'll admit, I felt much better about the book as I went along.

"So, why not do this new book like that, if that worked for you?" he asked me.

I thought about it. It's a valid point. However, I realized the reason pretty quickly: If I didn't want this book to take me six years to write, like Heaven's Forgotten did, I would have to try something else. And the "write poorly" method is at least worth a shot.

I'm nearing the halfway point, in only a handful of months, so maybe it's working? I guess we'll see, assuming I don't lose all confidence and cast the file into the abyss known as the Archive folder on my computer.

Other writer-type people, what do you think?