Getting the Story Down – by Deanna R. Adams

 Just yesterday I completed my first novel. And yes, my feathers are a bit fluffed right now knowing that I made it through the beginning. The middle. And the end (I always have problems with endings!).

 It took a full year to write this first draft (after all, life does get in the way!), and of course I realize that the hard part has only just begun. Now it’s time to go through the entire manuscript page by page, do necessary revisions, then draft a dynamite query and synopsis. Then, begin the process of pitching it to the right agent.

IMPORTANT NOTE: There is a terrific site on called “Critique My Query.” Check it out if you are in the process of writing that all-important query. The information given by editor Marla Miller is essential!

 But the novel, the story, is complete. And that’s what I want to address this month. The importance of just getting the story down. 

 Although I have written fiction before, I have basically been a nonfiction writer the last twenty-five years. A nonfiction writer with a bad habit. That is, I tend to edit my work as I go.

And that’s not a sin, if you’re a nonfiction writer. After all, it’s important to tweak that lead so you know where the article is going. And oftentimes, you need to fact check things along the way. And thank God for cut and paste! How often have you noticed a source’s quotation fits elsewhere, or one paragraph makes a better transition with another one further down, or you see that the third or fourth paragraph makes for a better opening, or a perfect ending? 

 So revising and editing a piece as I write hasn’t normally been a problem for me. But I also knew that, when writing a creative nonfiction piece, such as an essay, or a fictional story, that stopping the creative flow to check for just the right word, or research a fact, or revise the lead is not good. How did I know this? Because all my literary heroes have told me. Every time I’d read their advice in magazines or books, I could almost feel their slap on my hand! “Just get the story down first,” they’d say. Time and again.

So I knew it. But I kept doing it anyway.

That is, until I started this novel. I knew the story wouldn’t flow if I kept interrupting it. But at first, it was like keeping a smoker from lighting up when the pack and lighter is right at their fingertips. And I will shamefully admit that there were times when I’d actually minimize the window and jump right online to research something, like a year, or what my character would most likely be wearing in 1962. I had to, right that minute, find this out before continue writing. But each time I did this, I could feel the sting from my heroes on my hands, and hear them scream, Now stop that! And I knew I had to, if this story was going to continue moving from chapter to chapter.

So this is what I did: I began to bold or highlight a word or sentence that needed changing or researching, knowing that when the chapter was complete, I’d give myself permission to go back and  make the needed change or addition. *But never during my prime writing time, which for me, is in the morning. So when it came to finding just the right word, or give more detail to that scene, I’d wait for later in the day, or the evening when my husband was busy having his way with his beloved remote controller.

And it worked beautifully! My story moved on, almost seamlessly. I also kept a notebook to jot down notes for all the changes, details, additions (or subtractions) I wanted to make during the revision process.

And now I can say, it’s the best advice I’ve probably ever received as a writer. So now I’m passing it on, from one writer to another:

Just. Get. It. Down! Worry about the other details later!

There, I feel much better now 🙂

 Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Writing, PennWriters!