Jul 8, 2010

Write First, Edit Later By Jackie M. Johnson

So, you want to write a book—or an article, or something else. Whatever your writer heart’s desire, it’s essential to get started and get some words on a page. Yet many writers and wanna-be writers get stuck in the first draft process. That’s because often they’ve fallen prey to the trap of perfectionism. Here are some ideas to help you get going—and finish your piece.

Just start. Instead of staring at a blank white piece of paper or screen, just start. Lift your fingers to the keyboard (or pen) and start writing words, any words, to build momentum. Think of it as a warm-up.

Free write. Start your new project by doing a “brain dump.” Let the ideas (even half-formed ones) flow out of you. It may be a sentence, a few paragraphs or an entire chapter; the amount of content is up to you. Remember, it’s a draft. At the draft stage, it doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to be on paper.

Keep your crafts separate: writing and editing. Instead of trying to make the text perfect as it’s flowing from your fingers, realize that there is a process to the process. Bottom line: Don’t write and edit yourself at the same time. You will constantly start and stop, and become frustrated. It’s like trying to drive your car with one foot on the accelerator and one on the brake. The car would jerk so badly that you’d never get anywhere! Write first, edit later.

Clean it up. You have a body of unformed copy, now go back and edit the piece to clean up spelling, punctuation and grammar. Remove redundant ideas and excess verbiage. Less is more.

Capture your ideas. Finally, it’s important to realize that most writers don’t begin their project by sitting down to a blank white screen. Often they have notes or thoughts that have been marinating in their head for some time. Consider carrying a small notebook with you (in your purse, briefcase, car; whatever works for you) so you can capture ideas before they float away. Then, keep your notes in a file folder. When you sit down to write, pull out the file and you have some seeds of ideas to help you start writing.

Be okay with the process. Remember, your first draft is just that: a draft. Don’t let perfectionism creep in and freeze up your potential. A good writer has to be okay with the creative “mess” that’s all part of the beginning stage in the writing process. It’s like baking chocolate chip cookies. Imagine your completed project—your first novel, your non-fiction book, or article. Then imagine a plate of luscious, home-baked chocolate chip cookies. Both are results of a process.

But in order to get to the plate of cookies, you had to make a mess in the kitchen. Your guests didn’t see behind the closed kitchen doors as the stray chocolate chips rolled across the floor, or the flour streaked your forehead, or the dirty bowls piled up in the sink. But the process led to the result.

Likewise, your readers will never see the first draft jumble of words on your PC, or the outline you revised about 52 times. Eventually disorder leads to order. The clutter you began with gets sorted into creative goodness. In time, you find delight in the turn of a really good sentence—then another, and another. Until finally it’s finished, and your readers are presented with your final piece: your article or your book.

It’s time to get started on your masterpiece. Now go bake some cookies.



Jackie M. Johnson is an accomplished author and freelance writer who has a passion for helping people who’ve experienced brokenness. Her first book, Power Prayers for Women has sold almost 200,000 copies.

A Milwaukee native and graduate of Trinity International University, Jackie lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

You can visit Jackie online at http://whenloveends.com/ and at her blog http://anewdaycafe.blogspot.com/.


  1. Thanks for hosting Jackie today, JM.

    Jackie, I'm a big believer in the write first, edit later method. I found once I applied it to my own writing I was able to complete the first draft of a manuscript much faster.

    I wish you much success with your book.


  2. sherry heidelberger-blackburnJuly 9, 2010 at 3:07 AM

    This is the process I have finally developed for myself. I was never one to edit as I write, but I did tend to nit pick as I wrote. No more. And what a burden I have taken from my shouldres. I do not have to be perfect, I have to be done. Thanks, great advice!