Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Draft! Revise, rework or...rewrite?

You hear a lot about drafts when hanging out with authors. Zero Draft, Rough Draft, Final Draft...They sound a bit like superhero names. "Zero Draft vs. The Creative Seize." But while I'm a big reviser, and I believe wholeheartedly in reworking a story as many times as possible, in cutting repetition, adding detail, trimming, polishing and mixing around a story, I'm not entirely sure I have this draft thing down correctly.

In fact, I'm a bit terrified of it.

When I hear other writers talking about their "drafts" and which draft they're on and how many drafts it takes to get to their final, finished book, I sometimes have the sneaking suspicion that they are talking about completely rewriting the entire manuscript. You know, they say something like, "I do three drafts." or "The first draft is just to work out the plot." I imagine (with horrified concern) that they pen a 100thousand word story, and then set it aside and start....over. Completely over. On fresh paper, over.

Insert slasher flick damsel in distress scream here.

I can't do that. That's not me whining or even making a joke. I can't do it. Can't. All caps CAN'T. I know this because I once dreamed of being a comic book/animation artist. It was all I wanted in the world until I found out you have to draw the same thing...over and over and over. No thank you. Game over.

I suffer from terminal boredom. Repetition like that gives me major hives. I may adore my characters, love my plot and even want to read my story over and over, but to actually WRITE it again? No thank you. I'll hack at it with a chainsaw and fill in the gaps with better work, yes. I'll kill everything that shouldn't be in it and make it new, but to just set aside a whole draft. . . There are good words in there too, right? I need those good words.  Waste not, my zero draft effort, for even if there are only thirty thousand out of one hundred gems in there, I am not about to toss away one of them.

Maybe that makes me lazy, or maybe it makes me vain, or who knows what it makes me, I just don't do do overs. I do versions, many, many versions and each is definitely an improvement on the last. If the secret rule I'm missing is rewrite completely, well, I think I'm going to pretend that I never heard that.

But just out of curiosity, I'd love to know if anyone out there works on a chuck it and re-do it basis.
If you do, you scary, scary creatures, you deserve a medal.



Alyssia said...

LOL... Girl, this is too funny. Believe me, you are not alone. A lot--and I do mean A LOT--of writers speed through that first draft, not worrying about punctuation or spelling or overall good sentence structure, just so they can get the book finished.

The very thought of it makes me want to throw up. Break out in hives. Whatever.

I like to write as clean a first draft as my abilities will permit. Does that mean I write slower? Probably. But it also makes me breathe easier and makes my writing experience a lot happier.

TKToppin said...

I soooo agree with you. Why throw out the entire ms for the second draft?

My 'first' draft is basically a fairly cleanish product, since I re-read previous pages and tidy up before chugging along. The 'second' draft is making additions, deleting stuff and rounding things up some more while re-reading. The 'third', well, just another read-through to correct little things. Somewhere between the first and second, I send it to a the third draft may be similar to the second.

Voss Foster said...

I normally won't throw out a draft completely. They advance in stages, and every stage i cut out more and more and change it until it's (what I think is) a good manuscript.

But if it's thoroughly and unsalvagealy bad, I've been known to throw the whole bugger out and start fresh.


Darian Wilk said...

Well I would have to agree with you and the others here, I think to throw out the whole draft would make me cry! Like, seriously, I would probably dig it out of the trash can. Sure there may be some 'crap' in there that I cut or rework through the next draft. But there are some nuggets of good scenes there too (at least I hope so).

My first draft is to get the story on paper, as cleanly as possible. From there I take the same approach as you, cleaning it up as much as possible through a few more drafts. I think that's how a lot, if not the majority, of writers are.

siana said...

Wow, people actually do that? As a regular thing? I don't quite grasp the point I'm afraid. I can see tossing something if it just really isn't working at all, but not as a common form of working. I pretty much do the same as everyone elses comments. Write as cleanly as possible then revise a couple of times.

Jaleta Clegg said...

*raising hand* Guilty. I completely tossed the entire 120k+ draft of Nexus Point when I realized it wasn't working. The plot needed completely reorganized. I wrote the thing from page one all over again. But I chalk that one up as a learning experience. It was the fourth manuscript I'd ever finished, at the time anyway. When I rewrote it, I'd finished ten more novels and had learned a lot in the process.

So, I guess I write as many drafts as I need to. Sometimes I don't realize it isn't working until long after I've typed "the end."

And short stories are much less painful to chuck and rewrite.

Frances Pauli said...

"chuck and rewrite"


Vero said...

Great post!

My approach to this is to print out the mess I've written, go through it with a red & blue & green pen, open a fresh new project (or document) on the PC and with the printed crap next to the keyboard, start typing in the good parts and replacing the bad parts, from start to finish. It's not really throwing away the old draft, but it's not really editing on an existing text either.
I found this works best for me. :)