Stop Overthinking and Just Write

Photo credit: parafovea on Flickr
I follow a lot of writing tumblr blogs that answer craft-related questions for writers. Just about everything from  how can I improve my first chapter to when is the best time to query to how do I write x-type of character gets asked, but I’ve been noticing as of late that the questions have gotten pretty darn specific.

I don’t mean specific like what’s the best way to do this element, I mean specific like how do I write a gay Native American character with a speech impediment specific. (Note: that was a made up example).

Here’s the thing: we writers often tend to get caught up in the details. We fret over sentences and misplaced commas and we overthink our characters and plot and every minor detail we can analyze, we probably analyze it to death. It’s an easy trap to fall into, and while a little bit may be okay to let slide (hell, a little can even be kind of helpful), if you overdo it, it can easily become a way to procrastinate the actual writing part.

The secret to writing is writing. Really. That’s it.

When it comes to writing certain types of characters, the only thing you really need to remember is no matter what your character is like, whether they’re a girl, boy or somewhere in between, straight, gay, bisexual, asexual, white, black, brown, able-bodied, disabled, neuroatypical or not, they’re people first. They have dreams, fears, wants, dislikes and personalities that are entirely separate from whatever other traits you give them, and as long as you remember that you’re writing a person, not a disability (or sexuality, or ethnicity, or whatever), you'll be off to a great start.

Now that’s not to say research isn’t important (it absolutely is). It’s also not to say grammar and formatting and those easy-to-obsess-over details aren’t important (they are). But by far, the most important thing is to get that book written—after all, you can focus on those obsession-worthy details while revising.

So if you’re working on your first draft, or haven’t quite started yet, and you find yourself overthinking the details, take a breather. Relax. Then get writing.

Have you ever caught yourself overthinking before or during a first draft? 

Twitter-sized bites: 
"The secret to writing is writing."#writetip (Click to tweet)  
"You're writing a person, not a disability (or sexuality, or ethnicity, or whatever)." (Click to tweet)  
Have you ever caught yourself overthinking before or during a first draft? Join the discussion on @Ava_Jae's blog. (Click to tweet)


George McNeese said...

Sometimes, I'll wait until I finish a first draft to flesh out a character in order to get an idea what the story is about. And sometimes, I'll do a character sketch before I write anything. And it's where I'll get stuck. I want my characters to be like able and relatable, and not be a byproduct of a stereotype or cliche. I suppose I do overthink things. I just want to get a clear direction for my story.

Damien Riley said...

I've always told my students that if they can talk they can write. Great article and reminder.

Robin Red said...

Guilty as charged. I need to stop editing my thoughts before they're even written down. It's pretty unhealthy.

Ava Jae said...

It's really easy to get stuck in our own heads, especially when in the planning stages before a novel. I try to remind myself that it's never going to come out perfect the first time, and that's totally okay—you have however much time you need to fix it while revising.

Ava Jae said...

Thanks, Damien! Glad you enjoyed the post. :)

Ava Jae said...

I suspect it's a pretty common struggle amongst writers.

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