This advice changed the way I write.
The Hollywood depiction of writers is of them agonizing over a typewriter, coming up with the perfect way to phrase the last sentence before sending it off to be published immediately. They never have to rethink or rewrite anything.
I used to hold high standards for my first draft, so I did a lot of pre-writing and character sheets to ensure that everything would be solid by the time I started the story. The funny thing was, despite all the work I put into it before beginning, I never managed to finish any novels. I’d hit blocks and struggle with finding the motivation to write, then move on to the next idea that popped up. Then one day while I was talking to a start-up publisher, he commented, “There’s no such thing as good writing — only good editing.”
And the way I approached writing changed forever.
My first drafts are now a free flow of creativity. When I start that first sentence, I don’t know where the story is going to go — I write that down as it comes to me. I change my mind halfway through and jot down a note to edit the previous chapters for consistency. Then I change my mind again and scribble out that note. Sometimes, I don’t know what to do next and I write down random thoughts until the sentences start coming to me.
The second draft is spent cleaning up, rewriting, and fixing consistency. This is the part where I start to make it good.
Ever since I made that change to how I write, I have finished every novel I’ve started.