It has been quite awhile since I wrote a craft post, and the last post I popped up was just so full of sadz, so I thought I would turn to something that makes a small smile creep up on my face: revision.
Yes, that’s right, I Like Revision. A bit of an understatement. Let me try again. I Live For Rewrites. There. That felt better.
Here is the first page of a novel I started when I was eight. There are clear signs of what kind of writer I would eventually become. Um, that would be the
cross outs in case you were wondering. From a very early age, I really enjoyed going back over my stories, my letters to grandparents, my journal entries–anything I’d written, really.
Earlier this week, I clicked on a link that brought me to Chuck Wendig’s Terrible Minds blog. (In his own words, it is full of “lots of naughty language. NSFW. Probably NSFL. Be advised.” So, yeah. Caveat reader.) But I just loved one section of it so much that I did one of those little out-loud Oh! sounds as I was reading. Out loud. I really did. Here is the section I liked, with some expletives deleted:
The first draft is just me dumping all the puzzle pieces out. But it’s still a jumbled image. This part is where the art lives. This is when the story is smashed together, piece after piece. I can make it all make sense!
I just love that image: first draft as puzzle pieces scattered on a table. I know wonderful writers who prefer to craft what will be their final version from their very first go at telling the story. I have tried to be that writer. But my brain refuses to let me be that writer. When I try to get it right the first time, my creative brain takes a vacation in the land of far, far away. The writing is wooden and I lose interest so fast I might even decide to sort the linen closet.
But if I allow myself to work the way my writer brain likes, I actually get ahead.
I guess what I am hoping to convey about craft is that either way is fine. It is up to you to listen to your brain and figure out what it wants you to do.
Mine wants me to throw that first draft down as quickly as possible, riddled with errors and inconsistencies and things that could only, possibly ever be of interest to the work’s creator. (Me.) It is exhausting, writing that first draft. But if I do it this way, it is far less exhausting than if I do it any other way.
Writing really jumbled puzzle-pieces-dumped-out first drafts means I have a ton (a tonne) of work to do later. But that is the way I like it. I sort those pieces. I look for ways to make everything fit, to create that interesting picture that I know is in this mess somewhere.
Have you ever done one of those puzzles where all the pieces are the same shape (except for the edges)? I have. My writing is like that. I put the whole thing together. End revision one. I notice that the stars are at the bottom where they definitely do not belong. I move things. A lot. End revision two. Then I start to suspect the puzzle maker threw in some extra pieces. Look! There they are! Get rid of them! End revision three.
Okay, the analogy is starting to break down, but when I am actually in revision, there are at least two more passes. One for general flow: chapter to chapter, paragraph to paragraph, sentence to sentence. And then a final polish pass where I look for (or create) one sparkling bright bit on each page. This takes time. This takes passion.
And I love every minute of it.
Really, the only part of writing I’m not crazy about is that first draft. But if I am nice to my creative brain, it is a whole lot more pleasant of an experience.
What about you? What habits do you cultivate to be nice to your creative brain?