When it comes to common errors I see in a lot of writing, two major ones that happen within the first scene of the first chapter. Either the book has started too late, and all the cool stuff has already happened off screen and now the characters are stuck with a broom after the party was over or things have started way too soon. I’ve talked to people who have told me that the first book is a prologue, and the story they really want to explore doesn’t start until book 2 or even three.
A certain type of writer takes that news very badly. When I mention either they should start sooner so that the awesome bits are happening on the page or cut the bits of story that obviously isn’t the story they want to tell, the critique is over. These writers will say that they can’t possibly change what has happened. It’s set in stone. It’s at that point that I want to flip a table because it means that I’ve just wasted my time. I’m not the critiquer people should go to if they just want to tidy up their prose. I look at line edits on a first draft like picking out the cutlery pattern when you’re trying to build a house and still deciding where the kitchen is going to go. There’s absolutely no point in polishing anything if we don’t even know if the scene is going to be in the finished draft.
Olson is talking about context defending racist/sexist content as justified within the world. I also think his points work if you’re not trying to explain away the fact that there are no female soldiers in a game within a world that has orcs and goblins (side note: could Vox Day be more of an odious person? I’d argue he could not possibly, but then he finds an all new bottom. Side, side note: this post was originally just about the video. I got sidetracked). Everything that happens in your world is still very much under their control. If they can’t think of ever changing things, they are just not ready to ask other people how to make their world better.
I’ve certainly felt in my first draft that sense of just being a fly on the wall, writing down what my characters are doing rather than feel like I had to guide them in any way. Changeling emerged practically fully formed. The world, the characters, the problem, everything from the first scene was the way it needed to be.
But even if you are a writer who can look at the events of the book as mutable instead of immutable, there is still a swamp out there during the rewriting phase. Until I finished the second book and everything I thought I knew about the world was naive or half finished. I kept the first scene up to the truck stop and threw everything past that point out and rewrote it. Writing 101 says to put your text on ice for six months to a year and then go back to it. If you spend the time writing the sequel(s) to it, by the time you go back to the first book you can make the whole world a thousand times more dynamic from the first page. A lot of people call what should be their editing process rewriting. Rewriting is re-writing. Edits that try to polish the language used rather than try to say it better feels tired to me. The writing gets into the not bad, but isn’t good either. Not bad writing is hard to stamp out, but it has to be done, and only the author can do it.