Embrace Your Writing Tics

The biggest key to drafting is the ability to write badly, but that means a lot of different things.

One of the most blatant and immediate things it means is that you have to embrace your own writing tics—those little phrases, words, and stylistic choices that you find yourself making again… and again… and again…

What are some of mine?

  1. Ellipses… all of the ellipses… in dialogue… in narration… so dramatic…
  2. Looking—where is everyone looking at every moment, especially after every line of dialogue?
  3. Likewise, standing—where are they standing? Are they stepping closer? Are they stepping back?
  4. Dialogue tags in the style of “she said, verb-ing…” Always—I said, shaking my head.
  5. “Serious”—I don’t know if any piece of writing has used the word “serious” more than this draft—it doesn’t help that one of my main characters is predominantly “serious,” and there’s only so many ways to describe this… and then my happy characters get serious… everyone is serious… with a lot of pauses…

And so on. I could probably find a lot more if I went back and looked, but I have locked the draft away before I can be tempted to change it. [There’s this one phrase that was pointed out as cliché by a meme going around, and I am dying to change it because it is truly horrible—and I will change it. Just not yet. Resist!]

When you are writing a long draft, particularly a lot at once, you will notice your own tics developing. And the instinct is to try and change those tics, introduce alternatives.

But here’s why I think, instead, you should embrace them—because you’ll write faster. Having to stop every time your instinctual writing becomes repetitive will just be more stopping, and thinking, and potentially doubting. Instead, just surge ahead and plop in that cliché or thousandth use of that word, and move on. Revision is coming!

It makes me cringe, because every time I use a tic I know I’m going to have to change it later—but as I wrote in this post, somehow those little deliberate mistakes help me keep in mind that I’m going to have to change ALL of it later—so I might as well keep going! Knowing the surface level of the draft is crap helps keep me distracted from thinking about the pacing and plot and characters…

For now.


About J. Sevick

Just write.
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6 Responses to Embrace Your Writing Tics

  1. Harliqueen says:

    I have learned to just write when I write a first draft, get it all down and not worry about bad habits and the like. It’s all about just getting it down onto paper 😀 Great post!

  2. Caroline S. says:

    I’m in my first ever “first draft” and you make a lot of good points. I am finding all those tics I resort to and repeat, all the time! I am currently in Camp NaNoWriMo though and don’t have the time to change them, but I like the idea of not worrying about it too much in the first draft. I mean, it’s the first of many drafts I am sure, so of course it’s going to have issues.

    • J. Sevick says:

      Yes! First drafts are just about spilling out the words, any words, the worst words–revision is the time for art and quality. At least, that’s what I’m saying having finished my first ever first draft and not having revised it yet… But if I didn’t embrace my tics, I would have spent double the time just staring at the screen, trying to think of a different way to say what I wanted to say without the ellipses, or “serious,” or any of my other tics (also–endearments and “well” in dialogue).

      Thanks so much for your comment! 🙂

      • Caroline S. says:

        And it’s always nice to know we aren’t the only ones going through it! I like to call my first phase of writing my “word vomit phase” because I have to get everything out of my system before I can even come up with ways to polish.

      • J. Sevick says:

        Yes, I absolutely agree! It’s so hard to get into that state of mind, but I think it’s vital. 🙂

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