This morning I finished my short story, currently titled, “The Manner of Beasts,” and uploaded it to my online writer’s group. I’m happy with how it turned out, but the revision process was a drag. It got me thinking about the process of a story from conception to final draft, how other writers approach this process, and how I might become more efficient in getting from idea to that final draft.
My process is pretty consistent…and probably not that different from most other writers. Usually, I have some sort of idea that I’ll brainstorm out. Sometimes it’s already well-developed in my synapses and only takes a paragraph to sort out. Other times it takes several pages and several days of thinking with my fingers. Right now, this is the process I enjoy the most…because it’s all possibilities, all energy. I roll around in it like a Saint Bernard in a garbage pile, I swear I do.
Once I’m done brainstorming, I do a first draft all the way through. This is where I let mistakes happen (reasoning they’ll be there the next time I come by.) I usually mark a questionable word or section with an asterisk so I know to pay special attention to it later. This is also the easy draft where I let myself write free, to use and reuse words lavishly, record complicated metaphors, and be outrageously bold with dialogue. This is me, a writer, writing the first draft. This is when I’m at my most sassy. <snap!> (And probably my most cheesy and most stupid…and therefore, most fun.) 🙂
Once I finish the first draft, I declare victory, which means I spend a few days patting myself on the back and figuring out which presents to buy myself. During this time, I put a copy of said draft in a drawer and give us some time apart.
After a few weeks, I’ll dig it out and read it with a pen uncapped in my hand. The margins get covered in comments. Asterisked terminology gets researched and verified. This is when I sort out word echoes and too many -ing and -ly words. This is where I galvanize the passive verbs and shave away at character development and theme.
Once I have all my handwritten comments, the next step is going through the line-edits and making all the changes. And for me, this is a whole ‘nother pass, another draft. This is the part that takes me the longest, processing all the corrections and changes, considering word choice, rearranging paragraphs. This is where I always drag my feet. Technically, to me, this is my third draft — or my third reading.
Finally, I do a fourth reading — usually on the screen — just looking for typos at this point, and trying to read it as if I were a regular reader.
At this point, I’m done…for now. This is the point where I feel comfortable to send it on to a reader for feedback. Once I get feedback, I go back and do another reading, my fifth, adjusting things based on feedback.
Assuming it’s not plot-scrambling feedback and it’s fairly straightforward, I do one more reading — my sixth — to give typos and errors one last chance to make themselves known to me before I send it out into the Wild World.
I want to get faster in this process. I need to get faster. And it’s not about writing more stories faster necessarily…it’s more about getting the stories that I have written all the way to the final draft stage so I can send them out for a chance to compete for a publishing slot.
Many of my stories hit snags at the third or fourth draft, the part where it’s the hardest work for me — not surprisingly. I know I’m not going to somehow streamline brainstorming or typing in corrections — I am aware it’s art and not widgets — but it seems that I could shorten the time between first draft and ready-to-be-submitted final draft if I can work at becoming more dogged and disciplined in getting through those initial rewrites.
How about you guys out there? What’s your process, and where do you feel you need to work hardest? Where in the process do you feel you need the most improvement? Any suggestions for Miss Lazy Reviser here?
Come on now. Inquiring minds wanna know. 🙂