Write Hot, Edit Cold, Revise Warm is a fantastic three-part approach for staying productive as a writer. We all know some days we have an endless plasma of creative thinking flow, while other times we go through frigid spells of icy indifference. And there are many days in between of lukewarm motivation.
Those inspirational good times where the ideas just keep flowing and going on and on are sometimes referred to as being “Hot.” The idea is that we are connected to our writing passions and become energized with enthusiasm and effervescence. True inspiration is an unstoppable force. When we feel this, we should always stay in the creative process, generating more material, sketching new ideas, producing volume, and always moving forward. Ideas are fleeting and ephemeral, so when we feel connected to them, we should write them down, anchor them. Even if we don’t have time to fully express them in the moment, anchoring them allows us to reconnect later.
But we’ve also experienced those droughts where nothing new arrives, those “Cold” moments sometimes referred to as writer’s block. Like all the arts, writing is often based in passion, and when we don’t feel it, when we are disconnected from “the source,” we feel cold. At these times, we can stay productive by being analytical, by embracing the “cold logic” of editing spelling, punctuation, and grammar.
Then there are the times in between where we may have some stray ideas, some moments of clarity about what we’ve already written, some desire to be more descriptive, some vague feelings that perhaps things didn’t quite turn out as we had pictured them. “It sounded better in my head,” is the familiar phrase. These are the “Warm” moments of partial inspiration, the twilight world in between creating and editing that often leads to working on elaboration, clarity, and magnification.
By understanding these three basic modes, we can continuously stay in the writing process and feel good about what we are accomplishing:
- Creating new material when we’re cold usually yields uninspired writing. But the Write Hot mode is exciting and generative, and is the heart of being productive and happy. Need some ideas to get started? Try my Story Starters book!
- Editing when we’re hot creates frustration at not moving forward. But editing when you’re actually cold makes you feel productive and yields better writing in the end. Plus, it has the added benefit of creating discipline.
- Revising when we’re warm is ideal for those times when we aren’t sure how to proceed, but aren’t so cold as to (want to) edit. When we feel warm and revise, we can often focus on craft and precision, which often leads to satisfaction.
Write Hot (Inspired)
- Ignore the “inner critic,” that part of you that questions your writing decisions. Just keep writing more words! You can make changes later.
- Push the writing forward, even if it means skipping ahead. Write about what inspires you, even if it’s “out of order.” Move things around later.
- Keep writing! Get the ideas out and worry about whether they make sense later.
- Capture ideas and “leave yourself breadcrumbs” to follow later.
- If you get ideas for other pieces, pause your current writing only long enough to jot down simple notes. Then return to your current work as soon as possible.
- Trust in the idea that more writing will yield more ideas and solutions. Next ideas often show up when we stay connected to the writing process.
Edit Cold (Uninspired)
- When no new ideas flow, edit your previous writing. Check spelling, punctuation and grammar. Use an editing checklist.
- Use search functions to find unnecessary words and tired phrases.
- Learn a new “rule” and then apply it to your writing.
- Go back and reread your work. Read it aloud too! Think about and check the consistency, especially if parts were written on many different occasions.
- Share your work and enlist peer editors.
Revise Warm (Mixed)
- Re-read sections to see if it’s worth saying, it’s what you wanted to say, and if it will be clear to a reader. Consider the “big picture.” Add or subtract as necessary.
- Consider variety and balances: short and long sentences, thick and thin paragraphs, simple and complex language, plot and characterization, etc.
- Consider organization and timing: Is this the best way to organize? Is this the best sequence? Should anything be split apart? Stretched out? Separated?
- Add more details, dialogue and descriptions to existing scenes. Act them out and role-play them with others.
- Move things around if they make more sense. Measure against storyboard, character sheets, or other writing tools.
- Share your work and get ideas and solutions from others. Get some beta-readers and/or join a writer’s group.
Image by ELG21 - Pixabay