Tilting At Windmills.


French Windmill

On the surface of the “how to write” debate, there seem to be two kinds of writers: the planners who advocate outlining, and the pantsers who advocate writing full steam ahead and not looking back until the first draft is done, however bad it is.

Bavarian Watermill

Bavarian Watermill

This division is a fallacy: both of these writers are actually doing the same thing – trying to control their creativity – and then they wonder why they have so much trouble with writer’s block, and later on, such a hard time editing.

English Millstone

English Millstone

That’s why I’m an organic writer who edits as she goes: I don’t force myself to write in a linear fashion, so I don’t get writer’s block and lose momentum; I don’t lose the sudden insights and inspiration that improve prior work; and when the last plot hole closes, my first draft is so much closer to completion that it’s not too hard for me to go back and edit the last things that need fixing.


Rotary Quern

This doesn’t mean that writing my way is “easier” or “faster,” but that it makes the process much more relaxed and enjoyable, and that it comfortably fits into the rest of my life. (I began writing Irish Firebrands when I was in the middle of graduate school.)



All writing is therapeutic, and I’m in favor of anything that gets people to do it. So, whether your millstone is powered by wind or water, or it’s a rotary quern or a metate, or just a mortar and pestle, you shouldn’t feel as if it’s been hanged round your neck, to drown you in the depth of the sea (Matthew 18:6).

Mortar and Pestle

Mortar and Pestle

The myth of the tormented artist needs to be laid to rest.

If writing isn’t fun, then we’re not doing it right.

My Grain Mill

My grain mill (but I’m gluten-free, so take away the wheat)



Filed under Fiction, Literature, Novels, Writing

6 responses to “Tilting At Windmills.

  1. Ali Isaac

    I write like that too…cant start a new chapter without editing the previous one first! Still have my big edits at the end too though.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Exactly! I believe that too many writers suffer much needless frustration because they try to work from a cold start. For me, it’s like applying a block heater to an articulated lorry that’s fully loaded: I need to warm up the diesel before I can start the engine and overcome enough inertia to move that rig. (Although I rarely start at the beginning of anything: I write all over the book. The first part of “Irish Firebrands” that I wrote was stuff that ended up being in Chapters 23 and 24.) And if I’m used to editing all along, the “big” edits are no big thing, at the end.


      • Ali Isaac

        Thats right! I agree. I get ideas for snatches of conversation or twists in the tale which I keep in a Notes file. These events could ocurr much later in the story, but I dont fully write them until I have reached the appropriate point and can slot them in. My mind is always racing ahead with the plot. Editing each chapter before I begin the next gets me in the right mindset for what is to follow…it works for me!


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