Write Clothed. Edit Naked.
I am ripping off the maxim, “Write drunk. Edit sober.”
I’m not a drinking man so I’ll go for a metaphor that works for me.
Write clothed. Edit naked.
When you are getting ready to write, get dressed in your finest outfit. Pick something lavish and opulent.
Then, during the first draft of a manuscript, write with all the embellishments: describe in minute detail the way a man’s beard reflects the sunlight of a winter’s morn; the sound a woman makes when passing flatus during lovemaking; the focused intensity of a child sorting out the M&M’s into colours before eating them alphabetically.
Over write that sucker.
Write with all the adornments.
Use adverbs! And exclamation points! While using three superfluous, over-reaching, hyperbolic adjectives!
Recreate the Gatsby-esque lavish champagne soaked prose you want to. Go all “Pretty Woman” and tart up that wardrobe.
When you’re done, go for a walk in all your finery. Parade yourself around the lounge room and glory in the splendour that is your first draft.
Now, go to the front door. Close the door and lock it. Find a full-length mirror in the house. If you don’t have one, find one where you can see most of yourself.
Stand in front of the mirror.
Undress, taking off one piece of clothing at a time. Fold each piece of clothing and put it away.
Stand in front of the mirror. Look at yourself and admire what is there. Look at all the good bits, the wobbly bits, the bits you glorify in and the bits you are embarrassed by.
Now you can edit your manuscript. Sit down naked.
As you read the words again look for what it is you are trying to say. When you’ve found the message of your manuscript, strip it back to the bare essentials. Take out everything decorative and glittery. Learn to revel in the nakedness of your story. Learn to appreciate the perfection of its form and function before disguising and embellishing it with prose so it looks like the discount bin exploded all over your work.
Remain naked while you edit.
When you have reached the end of Act 1 you may put on some underwear. Nothing flash or fancy but comfortable and practical. Allow a little bit of lace if you’re feeling special.
Continue to edit naked.
At the end of Act 2 you may choose a pair of pants, a dress, something suitable to fit your narrative. This could be a pair of tracky daks or a three-piece suit; a pair of cotton short and a t-shirt or a simple, elegant dress.
Choose an outfit that enhances the body of your work and tells the reader exactly what it is.
Only when you’ve reached the end of your manuscript can you allow yourself to get fully dressed. When you have reached “The End” of your manuscript, you will be dressed perfectly and appropriately. Resist the temptation for ostentatious accoutrement; be selective: a good watch or a diamond pendant; a ring or a favourite pair of sneakers.
(Remember, it’s a metaphor, but if you want to do it naked, let the breeze play wherever it may roam)
Learn to write clothed and edit naked.