Saturday, March 26, 2011

First Drafts and Revisions

First drafts can be a blast. There's something freeing about the blank page, like setting out on the open road in a convertible, hair whipping in the wind as we take in the new discoveries that pop up around every corner. It's a rush.

Of course, the opposite can also be true. Even with a road map, we can blow a tire, waste time because of a detour, or wind up in a scary part of town.


Part of the joy of a first draft is knowing it can be for our eyes only. Nobody is judging us. If, however, our inner editor parks her rear end on a shoulder, it can be slow going. The blank page might look like a mountain--a really big mountain with an alligator-filled moat encircling it, and oh, did I mention the writer-eating witch who lives on the top? In other words, the blank page can be intimidating.



Then there are revisions. When we're revising, the clay is already on the wheel, ready to be shaped. It requires a different type of energy. Gone are the days of running wild. During revisions, we assess, rewrite scenes, move things around, fill in gaps, and tighten, tighten, tighten. Darlings are killed, and characters who aren't pulling their weight are run out of town.


Revisions require us to keep our stories--start to finish--in our heads. If we change something in chapter two, we have to comb it through the rest of the book, tracking any related changes that may splinter from it. We do major construction, tearing things down and building new things in their places, all while making sure we don't mess up the wiring. Then, at last, we do the feather dusting, the fine edits.



Are either first drafts or revisions easy? No way. But how rewarding would it be if they were?



What's your favorite part, the first draft or revisions? Or do you have a favorite?
My answer would vary, depending on the day, but I think I'd usually pick revisions.

22 comments:

Susan Fields said...

I used to think I liked first drafts best, but now I'm all about the revision. Pulling those words out of thin air just seems so hard sometimes!

Belle Wong said...

I like both, but if I had to pick, it would be the first draft, or, more accurately, the excitement of writing the first part of the first draft, when the story has built up in me so much, it's spilling out. I wish I could find a way to keep that energy going throughout!

Carolina Valdez Miller said...

I used to love first drafts more, but I prefer revision now. That's when the story really comes together for me. It's not easy, but having something on the page helps tremendously.

Anne Gallagher said...

Definitely first draft. I can throw caution to the wind, use cliches, and bad grammar, and it doesn't matter because no one will see it. Revisions are a lot harder. I have to take all that stuff out.

Sara McClung ♥ said...

I go back and forth! I think I love revision more, because you get to see your baby take shape, yanno? But at the same time, revision is really hard for me. I get stuck in the flow of that first draft (especially because I outline a lot before writing it) that making huge changes take FOREVER for me to wrap my head around...

Dawn Simon said...

Susan, I used to like first drafts way better. I don't think I understood the opportunity that comes with revisions. And yeah, a different energy is required to pull those words from thin air. I agree.

Belle, the periods when the story spills out is kind of magical, isn't it?

Carolina, that's how I feel most days.

Anne, that's the beauty of the first draft. Sometimes when I'm neck-deep in revisions, I crave the blank page, the freedom, the new discoveries.

Sara, I go back and forth too. Some changes have these unexpected ramifications I realize later.

Stasia said...

I think it's all really hard. For me, learning how to embrace revision was an important step in the writing journey. Revision for me is sometimes practically the same as a first draft as I tend to throw so much of the first draft away :)

Dawn Simon said...

Stasia, I had to learn how to embrace revision as well. Excellent point on how revision can be like a first draft. With my current WIP, my second start had so many changes that it felt like a first draft at times. Not completely, but somewhat.

Terri Tiffany said...

I love the first draft. Been fighting my revisions now for months but hoping I can make a huge dent this week.

Faith E. Hough said...

I prefer writing first drafts...probably because I obsess so much about every word that revision gets really difficult. BUT I love every time I accomplish a chunk of revising--that's such a rewarding feeling!

Ghenet Myrthil said...

I'm still on the first draft stage so I'll have to see once I move on to revisions. I think revisions will be refreshing at first since I've been writing this first draft for so long.

Stephanie Thornton said...

I love revising until about the seventh go, but first drafts are HARD! I'm enjoying this one, but it's quickly turning into a behemoth- 65,000 words and still not to the last third. Eep!

Dawn Simon said...

Terri, good luck on the revisions this week!

Faith, I totally get it. I can obsess, too.

Ghenet, I bet they will be. I always think it's refreshing when I switch phases.

Stephanie, I'm glad you're enjoying this one! I tend to over-write my first drafts--and first drafts of new scenes in revisions; I can't cut and edit too much until I get the words on paper (or the screen, actually).

Hema P. said...

Good one, Dawn! I used to think, in my immense naivete, that first drafts are easier than revisions. Now I know better. Like you mention neither is easy. However, I learned that an outlined first draft makes for more manageable revision cycles. :)

Dawn Simon said...

Thanks, Hema. :) I'm big into outlines too.

Medeia Sharif said...

I think I prefer revisions.

Lol @ moats and witches.

Rachel Searles said...

I thought I would prefer the revisions, but now that I'm deep in them, I think I prefer the first draft! :)

Kiki Hamilton said...

First drafts all the way! I love trying to figure out the story and who the characters are - because they always surprise me.

A.L. Sonnichsen said...

I like revising, but I love the excitement of a first draft. :)

I love what you said about neither of them being easy, but they wouldn't be rewarding if they were.
True words!

Amy

Anita said...

Well said! You've gotta appreciate the whole process, right?

Dawn Simon said...

Medeia, I usually do, too.

Rachel, hee! Yeah, sometimes I think the grass is always greener. ;)

Kiki, love the enthusiasm! It's cool when you have an "aha" moment you never outlined!

Thanks, Amy. First drafts are exciting. Something else I like: it's easy to track my daily progress and writing goals by page count during the first draft.

Thanks, Anita. I think so!

Dawn Maria said...

I like the freedom of a first draft, or as Anne Lamott puts it "shitty" first drafts. But then there's something to be said for revision, when you fine tune. I always come across some things that are better than I imagined, and of course parts that are worse!

I guess that means I can't pick a side!