“Write drunk. Edit sober.”
Easy enough, right? It means to write without boundaries, loose and wild and out of control. Thoughtful word selection and complex grammatical decisions belong in the world of editing. And yet, how often do you “lose your buzz” and start editing right in the middle of writing? How do you write drunk?
During Nanowrimo each year I see dozens of people falling into the editing trap when they should be writing. I get it: I’ve been trapped by those some concerns too. But nothing kills the possibility of finishing your work faster than accidentally falling into editing mode.
7. DON’T worry about legal issues.
When was the last time a drunk person considered the legal ramifications of her actions? Not recently enough.
Every year at Nanowrimo I see people asking about the legal ramifications of using a real place, or referencing a real person or quoting song lyrics. Go ahead, use the real place, the real company, the real person. Maybe your book will turn into speculative fiction or historical fiction. Maybe you’ll just change the name and identifying details when publication time comes. Allow your muse to reference the real people & places for the rough draft and worry about copyright law later.
You will never finish a book if you spend your writing time researching copyright laws.
6. DON’T get stuck on names.
I don’t have to be drunk or even tipsy to mess up someone’s name. But alcohol can certainly kill our ability to learn someone’s name.
In my last Nanowrimo book, one of my characters was a high priestess. I couldn’t think of a name for her, so I labeled her “HP” in my character list. I called her HP throughout the entire 50,000-word draft. In another place, I needed a place name and couldn’t think of one, so I called it “Camp Nanowrimo.”
Now, of course, names are important, especially if you are doing world-building for your work. But crafting the perfect name is not a good use of writing time: it’s a good use of planning and editing time. Writing drunk means using placeholders for names so you can keep the flow of words going.
5. DON’T do any research.
When a group of friends drinking together decide to do something, do they let a little lack of knowledge stand in their way? Heck no! They dive right in.
As writers, we often tumble into situations when we need to do a little research. Maybe you’re writing a typical day in your main character’s life when suddenly your character decides to bake a soufflé. But you don’t know how to bake a soufflé: you just know it involves eggs and ovens and not stomping around the house.
You can spend the next 2 hours watching YouTube videos on how to bake soufflés, or you can write what you know and then insert a note that says “Research soufflé baking” in the text itself. You’ll see the note while editing and then you can plan two hours of soufflé research. Nothing kills a writing buzz faster than educational YouTube viewing, after all.
4. DO relish your inconsistent verb tenses and incorrect grammar.
Have you ever listened to a tipsy person tell a story, and get the sequence all messed up? It’s hard to keep events in the proper order when you’re intoxicated, and the same thing is true of rough draft writing.
I have the bad habit of starting a scene in the present tense, and later slipping into past tense. It drives me nuts and makes editing a real pain. But stopping the flow of words because you need to correct verb tenses or look up the proper grammatical construction is exactly what sober editing is for. Write in whatever tense you need to use.
3. DO use personal references as shortcuts
Sometimes instead of a cliché, you have an inside joke or personal experience that works in your writing. For example, my husband and I have this inside joke: “Sad Superman flies in half circles.” Isn’t that hilarious? No? You don’t get it? That’s OK. Drunk people will tell you the entire story of the sad Superman half circles, and you won’t think it’s funny before or after the explanation! If I’m writing, and my muse tells me to write: “She knew Dogalog was sad by the way he flew in Superman half circles,” I’m going to write that. I know exactly what that means, and when I edit it, I will be able to sit down and leisurely craft a dozen accessible metaphors for my readers. Write drunk. The humor comes later in sober editing.
2. DO use clichés.
Do drunk people take the time to choose pretty words? Nope and neither should you. This is a rough draft. And if it’s Nanowrimo, it’s a rough draft that needs to be written quickly. So you’ve just written, “He was as dead as a doornail” in your draft, and you are cringing (deservedly). You can either use writing time to create a different simile, or you can add those seven words to your count and keep going.
Write the cliché and move on.
1. DO write terribly.
Have you ever seen something created by a drunk person? It’s usually terrible. Alcohol gives us confidence in our worst ideas. That’s bad for actions but great for writing. (Remember, we’re not ACTUALLY drunk, just WRITING drunk.)
I find this works best when I’m approaching a scene I really just don’t want to write. For example Your main character is about to get married in a big floofy wedding that is the exact opposite of anything you would choose. As you start writing, you realized that you know nothing about this kind of wedding. You can throw your hands up in despair, or just go with it. Write: “She walked down the aisle, an aisle filled with flowers and those thingys on the ends of the pews, on a burlap runner, with a long train and big Princess Diana wedding dress, watching the men lined up at the front place.” Now that’s awful. But it’s 42 words more than you would’ve written while browsing Pinterest for wedding ideas and terminology. And now you have a kernel of writing that can be edited into paragraphs of lyrical text.
To write drunk, you don’t have to consume copious amounts of alcohol. You just have to loosen up and let the words flow from your mind, not worrying about the end result. Have fun!
Elaine Bayless is a life coach, pastoral counselor, and Reiki Master in Raleigh, NC. She works with overwhelmed moms and over achieving perfectionists to help them create a delicious life of ease and joy. Elaine is a prolific writer, maintaining two blogs and publishing articles on elephant journal, Mind Body Green, and LinkedIn. In her spare time she bakes bread, reads, and gardens. She graduated from Regent University in 2009, with a Master’s degree in Divinity and Pastoral Counseling, as well as a peer coach certification. In 2016 she completed training as a Reiki Master. Check out her website at [http://www.soulcourse.com] or schedule a one hour stress relieving chat at [http://www.talkwithelaine.com]
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