Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Writing Lesson #2: Redrafting

In the early days, when I was writing stories in the back of exercise books, I wrote in pencil. And when I got to the end of the story, it was finished. The concept of First Draft was alien to me. But writing in pencil, for me, has always been rather messy. I'm left-handed, and tend to smudge the page when I have to lean my arm over it.

After a while I got to a point when I was rather proud of some of the stories I had written. I thought maybe they deserved better presentation. So I got some nice clean new notebooks, and wrote some of these stories out again. Neatly. In pen.

And in doing so, I discovered - quite inadvertently - that I was making corrections. I was changing an awkward word to something more concise. Rewriting sentences that I thought didn't sound right. Sometimes even taking out entire paragraphs, and substituting something else. And the story always sounded better for it.

I learned, therefore, Lesson Number 2 - the importance of redrafting.

When I started using a word processor, some years later, the whole rewriting process became much easier, of course, as all changes could be done on the computer without the need to waste all that paper. Now I couldn't imagine stopping with the first draft. It's strange to think back on those early days of assuming the story was finished when I wrote the last word.

Over the last twenty years, multiple drafts have become second nature to me. The thought of submitting the first draft to anyone is unthinkable. Yet it was only experience that taught me that the story gets better through rewriting; it wasn't a lesson I learned consciously.

That's the strange thing about writing. Learning the theory is all well and good, but the only real way to learn is by doing.

In writing this series of posts, I hope to impart some of the lessons that I have learned, through experience, through a lifetime of writing.

1 comment:

Nerine Dorman said...

I can't underscore the importance of revisions enough. But equally important is leaving a novel to lie fallow for about a month after completing it. This is usually the time that elapses in me sending a manuscript to my crit partner then receiving it back again. Boy, oh boy, do I find some gremlins.

Too often I see manuscripts that are submitted that are so not ready, with so many glaring errors I can't even make it past the first paragraph.

That's why a dedicated crit partner and/or writers' group is vital.