We live in a microwave world. Pop a meal into the microwave for a few minutes, and—bam—dinner is ready. Our obsession with fast doesn’t end with a “home-cooked meal.” We want everything done in quickly, from making our first house a McMansion, to watching multiple television channels at the same time, to being published in two weeks.
The thing I’ve noticed about this obsession with fast is that the quality is lost. Anything heated or cooked in a microwave doesn’t stay hot. Within minutes it’s cold and unpalatable. People with McMansions are often house poor—lots of house, not much to put in it or money do other things. When you watch more than one television channel simultaneously you don’t really know what’s happening on any of the channels. The bottom line is—things done quickly aren’t always done well.
And so it is with writing. A good story takes time to “cook.” From the inception of an idea to the last words on the page, a writer must be patient. I discovered this at the beginning of my writing career. As a new, inexperienced freelancer with no formal training, I usually spent time thinking about articles before I wrote them and did revisions as I wrote. Often times, however, I would be under a looming deadline with numerous pieces to finish. When that happened I would dash off article after article in order to make the deadlines. Even though I thought my first drafts were good, I would set the pieces aside for a few hours, or days if I could. Then I would go back and look at them. Invariably, in the pieces I had dashed off, I found errors, sloppy writing, and a number of places where I could have improved on several aspects of the story.
In my quest to meet deadlines and put out as much work as possible in the shortest amount of time possible, I became a Microwave Writer, producing less than stellar work. After discovering this, I made sure I gave myself plenty of time to develop, write, and revise any article I wrote.
Here are a few things I learned about Microwave Writing along the way to publication:
- The first ideas you have for a story are probably not the best ones. First ideas are generally the most common ideas. Spend a little time digging deeper into new angles and plot twists.
- The first words dashed off are never the best ones. Generalities, repetitious words, passive language and telling are hallmarks of easy, sloppy writing. Recognize your words are not golden and accept it if you vomit on the page the first time. Just don’t let it stay.
- First drafts are just that—first drafts. They are meant to be revised, several times. Don’t rush your article or book, and when it’s finished give yourself time away from it before you start the revision process. You’ll be surprised at the mistakes you find even if you revised as you wrote.
- The first drafts shall be last, and the last drafts shall be first. Writers who don’t nurture their writing and give their manuscripts enough time to develop and become the best they can produce will not reach the level of success they hope for. The writing world is very competitive, especially with today’s ease of self publication. Bad writing will always be present. Make sure it’s not yours. Good writing will always rise to the top. Strive for that. Take time. Learn the craft. Put in the hours, and leave microwaving for the cardboard tasting frozen dinners.
Have you ever been a microwave writer? What did you discover when you took a second look at your work?