Monday, April 20, 2009

On Revising First Drafts

“The worst mistake a writer can make with revision is to start revising as soon as he has finished the piece. The writer is still too close to the work to see the flaws.” -- Jeanne Lyet Gassman in Jeanne’s Writing Desk: Revision Traps and Tricks.
I’m one of those writers, maybe you are too, who edits as I work on a first draft. I write until I reach a point where I’m not sure what comes next, then go back and reread what I’ve written. The hope is that by the time I return to where I stopped, I’ll know what needs to happen next. If something feels wrong while I’m reviewing the prose, I may work on it, but I don’t spend a lot of time on the problem.

Once I finish the first draft, I set it aside. My intent is to not make any changes for at least tewnty-four hours. If an idea comes to me before then, I make notes in the margin, but don’t alter the text. I repeat this process for two or three more days. If I don’t feel the story is ready for a public viewing at this point, I set it aside for as long as a week, work on something else, and come back to it.

Once I submit a story for critiques, it begins a new life cycle. Perhaps I’ll share that with you in another post.

1 comment:

Davin Malasarn said...

Nice post! I tend to write that first vomit draft and then revise quickly afterwards. I will eventually take a break from the story to distance myself, but it doesn't need to happen right away. I have a poet friend who is very stubborn about putting his first drafts away for at least 6 months before he revises them. He's pretty well-published, so it's probably a good strategy!