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Write Drunk, Edit Sober With Anya Richards and Giveaways!

Author Anya Richards shares about Writing Craft. She comes with Giveaways!

Multi-published author Anya Richards lives with her husband, youngest kid, a mutt, and two cats that plot world domination one food bowl at a time. The humans support her writing while the animals see her preoccupation as a goad.

Insatiably curious and irreverent, Anya loves history, music, the sea and a good rum punch. To learn more drop by Anya’s website make friends with her on Facebook  or follow her on Twitter.
Write Drunk. Edit Sober.


I’ve shamelessly stolen the title of this blog from an Ernest Hemmingway quote, which is one I endorse… sort of. On the surface, and considering the man who said it, you could interpret it literally, i.e. have a shot or five of scotch and hit the keyboard. Yet, if you look at it from an author’s perspective, if taken figuratively it can be excellent advice.

We all have an internal editor and often when you’re writing it says things like, “What the hell are you doing? Why are you letting the story stray from the outline?” Or, “What is this drivel? No one will want to read this!” Now, think of the effects of alcohol. It loosens inhibitions, allowing you to do things you might not otherwise do. Maybe wild, crazy things you’ve secretly wanted to do but couldn’t or wouldn’t if you were sober. It allows your brain to take the path less traveled—sometimes maybe the path-you-should-avoid—and gives you a different, world-spinning, tilty perspective.

When writing it’s good to turn off the self-editing, let your brain get boozy and just write. Let the words and ideas flow in whichever direction they want to. Go a little crazy if that’s what happens. Get drunk on the words and the story. If a purple flying monkey makes an appearance, work it in. Go with that crazy, left-turn, impromptu, boozy story arc. Have wild, drunken fun as the process of getting the words down unfolds.

As an example, in my story Three Strikes, I originally planned for my Jamaican character, Vincent, to be in the closet. It made the most sense, because of where he comes from and what he would face coming out as gay. But once I started writing, the character decided he had been through enough in his life and having a secret like that would be a step too far. I resisted for a while, and then gave it up, letting the story flow without reservation. Somehow, in the midst of my drunken orgy of writing, the answers came and the story developed into something richer and deeper than I could have ever imagined.

Then, just like waking up the morning after with a monster hangover, I went back to look at what I’d written while in the grip of that wild, tipsy euphoria. It was wonderful, glorious—and full of extraneous information, loose threads and just plain crap.

That’s when it’s time to shake off the last vestiges of the drunk, sober up and start paring it back, filling in the holes and making sure the story is as tight as it can be. Now the internal editor, that party-pooper, poker-up-the-wazoo part of your brain, is welcome. Once it gets over the shock of your bender, it can get to work, cleaning up after the bacchanal of writing, making things neat and pretty.

So, write drunk, letting the words come out in all their glory, and then sober up and edit.

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23 comments:

  1. I enjoyed your take of Hemmingway's advice. I'm sure it helps more with the hangover to not have to get drunk to write drunk. :)

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    1. For sure, Cherie! I wonder if Hemmingway started drinking at noon and went to bed early to be able to get up and write at 5:00 a.m. and avoid a hangover? Either that, or he had an amazing liver!

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  2. We each have to find what helps us write without those inhibitions. I have to write by hand, because if I go straight to the keyboard, I feel pressured to make it perfect.

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    1. I sometimes think it might be fun to get an old word processor like the one I started writing on and see what the effect would be on my writing process. I've tried writing by hand but get frustrated because the words are coming faster than my hand can manage... besides, afterwards I go back and can't read my own chicken-scratch! LOL!

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  3. I totally love getting to a place while writing that allows me to do so freely! This doesn't mean a drink for me, but I totally get what you're saying :) Now if only I could find a cure for the revision hangover!

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    1. If we could come up with a cure for that hangover and bottle it, we could be rich Meradeth!

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  4. According to the books I've read, Hemingway used to write from 5am~midday, then go and drink, so I think you've nailed it Anya. I can't wait to get to your story in the set.

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    1. On the weekends my father used to say, "Is the sun over the yardarm? Time for a drink..." I often think it would be nice to go back to the tropics and have that sort of, "It's noon, time for a nice, long break now" type of lifestyle, but since I'm not a morning person I wouldn't be getting up at 5! I'd probably be going to bed then :)

      I hope you enjoy Three Strikes as much as I enjoyed writing it.

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  5. I love that euphoric, crazy first draft - full of all kinds of nonsense and some really glorious bits. :)

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    1. I actually do the "write drunk" in spurts, because I know if I do an entire first draft that way I'll probably be too overwhelmed by trying to clean up the entire book... My mind goes off on tangents (those loose threads I spoke about) and if I leave them all in there I'll make myself nuts!

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  6. I need to learn to turn off the self-editing while writing. I do it all the time. But I look at it as...it saves me from even more editing later. ;)

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    1. My internal editor is a pushy piece of work too, so I can only turn her off for short periods of time. So I "write drunk" in spurts, then go back and clean up what I wrote. That way I know where the story is now going and have taken out the extraneous bits. It keeps the internal editor happy and allows me to have a fairly clean first draft too!

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  7. I think the advice makes a lot of sense! Turning off the self editing while writing makes the story flow and the ideas take over. Thanks for sharing!
    ~Jess

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    1. Thank you for coming by, Jess. Turning off the internal editor isn't easy for a lot of people, but it can really stifle creativity if it isn't controlled! No matter what genre you're writing in, there are rules we've all been bombarded with--those things people say should *never* be done, or *must* be included --along with grammar rules too. If we all followed all of them, there's the risk of 'homogenizing' our genres, not to mention losing our trains of thought ever two words when we stop to think, "Is it 'is' or 'are'? 'Was' or 'were'??" It really pays to muzzle the editor and be free!

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  8. Hemmingway must have gotten it right. He was a master at telling a story.

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    1. Amen! I had to read 'The Old Man and the Sea' when I was a young teen in school and I was enthralled. I still go back to it periodically, as one of my 'comfort' books, although it isn't a comfortable or comforting read (if that makes sense??) :)

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  9. I'll have to remember that great advice!

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  10. Appreciate the advice, Anya! I often have trouble turning the inner editor off while I write, but am getting better. Nas, thanks for hosting!

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  11. Good advice for a recovering perfectionist like myself. I try to vomit out my first drafts and clean them up later. Leads to higher word counts in record time -- and plenty of headaches during the revision stage. But at least I have something to work with by that point!

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  12. It's more or less the way I write, but afterwards it's a big mess to polish up ;-)

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  13. Super excellent advice, and totally on. Of course, I don't drink, so maybe for me the advice should be "write tired, edit rested?" ;)

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  14. Great advice! I need to write 'drunk' more often because my inner editor just won't shut up!

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  15. I can relate to this. I wasn't drunk, but I fast drafted a novel in two weeks awhile ago, as if in a trance. It was amazing, but messy.

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