Posted by: Jodi | August 11, 2010

Writing Without Looking

Not too long ago I started using yWriter5, a software program specifically designed for writing novels.  I was willing to try anything to help pull the pieces of my story together and motivate me to keep going.  While yWriter has done wonderful things to help with the story’s organization, it does not motivate me in the way I hoped it would.  Back in the beginning of the writing process, I had this relentless drive to keep working at the book.  When I finished the rough draft and learned how much more work it would take to transform my not so great rough draft into a terrific story, that drive evaporated.  For months I’ve been stuck mid-rewrite after making major changes to the beginning half.

I’m suffering from a perfection complex.  Every word written has must be weighed and measured to be sure that it’s [shudder] perfect.  There is no such thing as perfection in writing!  We can only make our work as vivid as the limits of our imagination.  In the drafting phase, seeking ‘perfection’ is a sure-fire way to get stuck and frustrated.  Instead of working through it, I find myself looking for other things that need to get done around the house.

Staring at a white computer screen doesn’t help the writing flow either.  No new software program is going to take that aspect of writing away.  When that realization finally clicked I had a radical idea.  Why look at the screen at all?  It’s not like it’s needed in the drafting phase where the story spills out of your brain and on the page.  The last few days I’ve done just that, writing without looking.  I retreat into my brain, stare off into space, and start visualizing the scene and the characters letting it all spill out through my fingers in a big wordy puddle.  Only later when the scene has rested in my mind do I dare return to edit and clean it up.

Some use a voice recorder to create the same big wordy puddle.  I’ve tried using one before and found that I’m too self-conscious to speak my story aloud, especially in this drafting phase.  Even if I was comfortable recording my thoughts I’m never alone in a quiet place to do it.

This new approach to getting my thoughts out of my head and on the screen has been liberating.  I will not be daunted by that cursed white screen anymore!



  1. Good luck with this process. I hope the transition from mind to page works as well. )

    • Me too! So far it’s been great to overcome the ‘deer in headlights’ feeling when facing a white screen. I still would love more uninterrupted work time.

  2. You sound like me…I’ve been going through something very similar. I am thinking possibly of writing in long hand next time, I’m not joking. If it worked for Dickens, it can work for me ha.
    Best of luck with it.

    • If it weren’t for the time involved to write long hand I would consider it. I always start developing my ideas in a composition book before getting to the computer, something about putting pen to page opens the little doors in my mind.

  3. I know the feeling. Sometimes I’ll open a new, white window & do that exact thing.

    I also really like the yWriter 5 program. Once I’ve written a certain part, I can drop it in wherever I need it.

    • yWriter is a great tool, can be as flexible as your imagination and applied to all sorts of large projects.

  4. Good luck.

  5. Interesting approach. I do the same thing, but only because I’m such a lousy typist I need to watch what my fingers are doing!

    I’ve mentioned it before, but it works for me so I’ll say it again. I write without going back over what I’ve done. That way I don’t get hung up on making it perfect. Perfectionism kills motivation, because writing becomes a chore at that point.

    I wrote my novel until was over, in one pass, then I rewrote until the book was over, in one pass, never looking back. 9 drafts later, I was (as) happy (as possible, for now) with the result.

    Not that I’m qualified to dispense advice about writing, but that’s my two cents.

    • If it weren’t for the changes I needed to make I would love to do just that! I need to rewrite a few more huge sections and then I’ll move towards more linear editing.

  6. Sounds like we’re going through the same phase; when I finished my novel I was so motivated but that was until I realized how much work it was to rewrite & revise the whole manuscript. I think it’s best to take it one page at a time to keep yourself motivated and not get overwhelmed. Baby steps 🙂
    I wish you the best of luck Jodi!

    • You are so right! One little step at a time and it will get done. My big challenge is finding time to take a few baby steps everyday.

    • Nothing sucks like having to slog through that second draft.

  7. If you’re overwhelmed by editing on the screen, why not get tactile? Print the manuscript out and have at it with a red pen. I still edit my novels that way – it lets me get away from the screen, and looking at the words on paper gives it a whole new look.

    I have sometimes been overwhelmed when a project didn’t turn out the way I wanted and required a lot of work to proceed from Draft One to Draft Two. I try to take some time away, at least a month, after finishing the first draft of a book. That gives it time to settle. And if it needs more time? That means it’s time to start another project.

    Good luck with your next draft!

    • I am planning on printing it out once I reassemble my broken story back into a cohesive whole. If my darn characters would have gotten their acts together from the beginning I wouldn’t be in this mess.

    • Most of the writing books I’ve read say exactly what you just did. If only those books came with replacement ink cartridges.

  8. […] 2010 by Joe Clifford Faust Jodi over at My Literary Quest has made a shocking discovery. In her latest post she describes her discovery that the first draft of her novel will need a lot more work before it […]

  9. I like the idea of closing your eyes and visualizing the scene. I’m about to turn to my novel. I’m going to try it.

    • I would love to hear about your experience with trying it!


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