I think what I appreciated most about Trent Lee Stewart’s visit to UCA last week was his humility and the way this humility underscored that there is no one way to be a writer, that it’s about finding out what process works for you.
This was most evident when he talked about drafting. He says he labors over his first drafts so that when they’re finished, they’re more or less finished, requiring just a little tweaking. He doesn’t enjoy subsequent revision because of the amount of time he puts into those first drafts (given the time element, I wouldn’t then call them first drafts but that’s another story). But then he went on to add that he knows lots of writers for whom revision is the whole point and writing the draft is agony.
That would be me. Sure, there are times when the “flow” is going pretty well in the drafting process, but most of the time, first drafts really are the hardest parts for me. I just can’t WAIT to get to the point of revising, tinkering, tinkering, tinkering. This makes novel writing, which I’m in the midst of, hard because the first draft seems to go on forever and I’m just dying to get to the revision. The fun, “phew, the basic creation is done,” part when I can fuss over words and sentences and, in the relaxation of revising, get all sorts of new ideas to enrich the writing along the way. Your basic carrot at the end of the stick.
I’ve tried the “revising as you go along” thing but it just doesn’t work for me. When I do that, I end up obsessing so much that I revise the same three pages for weeks and totally lose track of the story itself. Definitely a no-no when you’re working on a novel. Gotta keep the big picture in view.
So, at this point in your writing life, what kind of reviser of you?
I’m definitely of the Stephanie Vanderslice School of Revising. I used to pretend I could get the bulk of my work done in the earlier drafting stages, but then I wrote an undergrad thesis and came to grad school. In these endeavors I’ve learned the creative beauty of free writing. Whether I’m working on a poem, a creative non-fiction piece, and especially in an essay of literary analysis, I often stop in the middle of the draft and do a mini brainstorming session before I move on. This strategy is particularly helpful when drafting academic essays because, for me at least, it’s easy to lose the argument altogether–to purse a tangential thought too far–and free writing in the middle of drafting helps me find my argument again and gives me great ideas for when I go back in and tinker.
I love to tinker.
I’m a throw-down kind of gal. I like a good four hour stretch of just killing the keys and slamming it out or scribbling by hand until my fingers clench. Then I put it away for a couple of weeks, sometimes more, and revise only when I can look at it objectively.
I find that it takes me about ten minutes to get into the first-draft groove – heaven. It’s my absolute favorite part. Revising is not, so I have to keep it separate from the bloom. My best revision moments happen on a deadline, and those self-imposed things simply don’t work. It must be a REAL deadline, life and death.
I tinker, but that’s not hard revision for me. Tinkering is opening up something I’ve not looked at for weeks, making a few alterations, then closing it back up. That’s an ongoing process. I tinker with something every single day.
I would love to be able to live around an author while they are in the process of writing a book. The way they go about it, how they put it on paper, either manually or with a computer/typewriter. The whole process interests me! Maybe, I would enjoy having a writing mentor. When they write, breaks they take and what they do during those breaks. What do they eat that may be unusual for them otherwise if they are not in the writing process?! Just a thought…..Thanks,Cindi