"No Thinking. That Comes Later"

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I’m watching the old (2000) movie, Finding Forrester, as I work on this blog post. Have you seen it? It’s the story of an aging agoraphobic author played by Sean Connery (the only actor worthy of the name Bond, in my opinion) and his young protoge’, a brilliant inner city kid named Jamal. Forrester tells Jamal to start writing, and Jamal replies that he’s thinking of what to write. Forrester replies, “No thinking. That comes later.” He goes on to say, “Write your first draft with your heart. You rewrite with your head. The first key to writing is to write, not think.”

What excellent advice summed up in a few sentences! So many novice writers want perfection from the start and they work and rework one page in the time they could write twenty. Early in my writing days, I belonged to a wonderful critique group. Critique groups are great; I highly recommend them. Group members can help you polish your work, but more importantly, they give you support while you’re writing. The problem I found over time, though, was that being in a critique group forced me to spend too much time thinking and not enough time writing from the heart.

I know many writers who polish as they go, trying to make that first draft fit for publication right from the start. Some of them succeed at it, too, but I’m with Forrester. My first draft is always written with my heart. It’s messy, full of blank spaces, half sentences, and is very short on detail, but it has plenty of emotion and always contains the central thread of the story.

I had to leave my beloved critique group when my writing settled my current “sloppy first draft” pattern, because I never had work that was polished enough to be critiqued in a timely fashion. My current group of writing buddies and I are all published and all working under one deadline or another, so we rarely have the time–or the desire–to critique each other’s writing. Rather we brainstorm and commiserate over the vagaries of the writing business. And we write wonderful sloppy first drafts, straight from the heart.



  1. brenda on June 17, 2009 at 11:29 pm

    I have an author friend who wrote 4 young adult novels…a book with vignettes about Vietnam…in fact he put me in the 3rd novel as Aunt Brenda…they are great books…I used them in my classroom for several years. He sent me his drafts…I read them-made suggestions (also on his published short stories). He is a great great writer/professor, but it helped to have another view-a friend and me-the high school/college instructor…sometimes when reading authors today, I wish they would have at least one person read their writing who knows what is going on…I also had someone read my novel–yuck-it was so bad-both of us thought that it was-that I gave up that part of my life for now…it is too too hard…

  2. brenda on June 17, 2009 at 11:31 pm

    P.S. The movie was good. Also, I might add about the writing…I think so many mainstream authors today are in a rush to get published, they forgot why they write in the first place…that’s why many of them are fading away from those of us who loved them in the first place…just read online reviews at Amazon…book clubs, Blogs, etc…Thankfully Diane, you are not doing that.

  3. Krysia on June 18, 2009 at 12:34 am

    I loved that movie. He did speak true.

  4. ronnie on June 18, 2009 at 9:49 am

    Since I tend to speak without thinking can be an author wanna be? Now that I think about it, the only time I usually open my mouth is to exchange feet.
    Diane, I am reading Summer’s Child on my Kindle(and loving it of course)I can see how your writing has developed over the years.

  5. Diane Chamberlain on June 18, 2009 at 10:18 am

    You know, Ronnie, re-reading Summer’s Child was a bizarre experience. I thought the writing was really different from my other writing . . . and not as good. However, I thought the story was super (in my humble opinion. lol), especially because I couldn’t remember what the heck was going on with Grace and all the twists and turns, and I figure if I, who created that mess o’ characters, couldn’t remember, the reader would be in for some surprises as well.
    But back to the writing. . .eventually I remembered that this is the one book that I wrote entirely using voice recognition software because I was unable to type due to Rheumatoid Arthritis. It was before the “good drugs” were available and my hands were useless. I remember not being happy with my writing, because it was very spare and (I hate this word) pedestrian, just moving the characters from point A to point B without a lot of description or much finesse. So I don’t think it’s truly a good book to use in comparing my early writing to my later writing. I do love the story, though. I got weepy 2 times toward the end of the “re-read”. Always a measure of a story “working” for me.

  6. Margo on June 18, 2009 at 3:46 pm

    I loved SUMMER’S CHILD…Diane, it’s right up there with some of my fav’s of yours…(-O:

  7. brenda on June 19, 2009 at 11:39 pm

    Diane-I am in beautiful Washington State hoping the weather will change for the Sunday Idaho Ironman for my sun…I perused an old-fashioned (not chain) bookstore today…I looked for Summer’s Child-just to buy another copy to read while I am here…no luck-but I agree with Margo-one of my favorites…you are humble…
    P.S. Now that I have decided NOT to get a KINDLE–I saw people using them in the airport, and the new bigger one looks fantastic…alas…maybe some day I’ll change my mind again…still think they are quite expensive.

  8. Diane Chamberlain on June 20, 2009 at 11:14 am

    Brenda, hope the weather’s perfect for Sunday. I love Washington State. It’s going to be 100+ today and we’re going to Margaret Maron’s 50th anniversary pig-pickin’ and fireworks party! Hope it cools down a bit by evening. Whew.
    The big Kindle does look very cool. I am a Kindle convert. I have reservations because of what it means to the book biz, but I love reading on it.

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