Monday, January 10, 2011

Drafting and Revision Style

I'm deep into revisions (okay, partial rewrite/partial revision) of my paranormal romance so that I can resubmit it on query. I basically hacked off the first nine chapters and wrote new ones, and now I'm integrating the back half of the novel so that it coincides with the new stuff I wrote. The story is much better now, which is awesome, and I have a lot more confidence in it as a whole.

But that's neither here nor there.

What I was thinking about this morning (as I wasted time dilly-dallying instead of doing my day job) was how writers write. Lots of writers write fat in their first draft and then pare out the stuff they don't need when they revise and edit. I tend to do the opposite. I write lean in the first draft, just to get the bones of the story on the page, then in revision I go in and fatten up the line count, adding in more character development, description of setting, etc. I can't spend forever in the first draft trapped in each scene spewing loads of detail. I need to get in and get out and move on before I lose the urgency of the story.

There's not a lot of foreplay in my first drafts, they're kind of wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am.

So it interests me to know how other writers approach their drafts, since no two writers are the same, and there's no "right way" to write. Some people write it out longhand, which I can't even begin to fathom not only because I have wicked tendinitis, but it would take ages to get the words on the page and before I got to the end of the scene I'd forget what the hell I wanted to say in the first place. So I don't understand the appeal of actual pen on paper.

And lots of people are plotters, a subject I think I've discussed before. For me, whether or not to plot depends on the story. Most of the time I just wing it, although I actually plotted this paranormal romance and now I'm throwing out half of what I plotted and starting over, so clearly that plotting effort was worthless. But for a lot of writers it works. And I can see how for some of the projects on my "to write" list plotting is going to be necessary.

I often wonder how many rounds of revision most writers go through, too. I mean, this paranormal romance has gone through way too many, but it's my first novel, so I think that's to be expected as I find my writing way. I would assume that the more practice a writer has at writing, the easier it is to see the finish line and streamline the process so that it takes fewer rounds of editing. Of course, I could be totally wrong about that, but I can easily see how I could have cut several of my read-throughs and, in fact, as I've been writing the first draft of my second novel I'm consciously avoiding lots of the same kinds of errors I fixed in preliminary editing rounds of novel one, saving myself precious time.

As I head into the home stretch of this rewrite/revision, and as I try to find ways to avoid doing my day job (like blogging), writing is always in the back of my mind, lurking there, because it's what I'd rather be doing. And I wonder about other writers' processes.

What kind of drafter are you? Fat or lean? Do you go through excessive rounds of edits or have you written enough that you're able to limit the edits? I won't even ask the plotter vs pantser question because it's overasked.

Okay. I've wasted enough time. I need to go back to my day job, as unhappy as that makes me. Here's to the day (in the hopefully not too distant future) when my day job is writing....


Hannah Kincade said...

I'm a lean drafter as well. I like to just get it down and out. Then I can come back and fill out the details and plot holes I just glazed over because sometimes you don't know what you want until it's all out on paper. Of course, being a perfectionist, I discovered this the long and hard way (no pun intended).

With the exception of NaNo, I handwrite most of my work. It's not for everyone but it's how I started writing and how I love to write. Though from now on I'm going to try to put most of my first drafts on the computer first for the sake of time.

Different strokes...

The Golden Eagle said...

I'm a fat drafter. I hammer out every detail that I can think of and then distill it to the essentials during revising/editing. I hate leaving stuff out in the first draft.

Shallee said...

Interesting questions! I tend to be lean on the first draft, and do a LOT of editing. The first draft is where I discover my story, and after that is when I organize it and flesh it out!

Also, if you're interested, I'm holding a What's Your Process blogfest over at my blog. It'll be interesting to have a look at the writing processes of lots of different writers!

Lisa said...

Great post! I'm revising right now, too. I think I write lean and then add in later. I plotted my current WIP out before I started, but then ended up changing stuff as I went along and a brilliant idea came to me.

I don't think anyone gets it right on the first try, so even published authors have to work really hard at revisions. One of my favorite Judy Blume books, Wifey, went through 13 rounds of revisions. All I could think to myself was if Judy couldn't get it right until she went through 13 drafts, how can I expect to?

Sarah said...

My word count gets larger with every revision, so I think that makes me a lean drafter. ;) The first draft teaches me so much about the characters and their world. The second draft is when I'm able to really take advantage of that new knowledge and stuff it into the manuscript.

Carolyn Abiad said...

I tend to keep things lean on my first round. I do well on the settings and such, but I have a weakness, even after a revision. Brevity. Lucky for me, I have a great crit partner who identifies the spots where I could use a little more EQ.

Jodi Henry said...

I used to be a pantser (no outline etc...) then I outlined a story and wow what a freakin difference that was. I outline now, or at least do the first 1/4 of the book so I know where and when to drop in the different plots of the story.

I used to edit as I wrote, always reading what I wrote the day before and then going forward. The thing was, I was never making a lot of progress in the forward movement, a lot in the day before. So now I don't edit as I go, as hard as it is--and it is HARD--it's working for me.

I write my first draft like it's the one and only. I give it everything. Right now, I feel like my WIP is missing slower chapters to break up the back to back action in it and I am very stuck. Writing has stopped. Well, until yesterday when I found a way to infuse a slow chapters after a huge action chapter. Now it's game on again.

As far as editing. I have three writing group members who are reading the book as I write it. They've got a lot of words to go before they catch up to where I am though. Cheating a little and falling back into the 'editing as I go' scene, I went through their edits of the first twenty pages of my WIP. Each done seperatly - which means three full rounds of editing and now those twenty pages are the first part of my second draft.

Tiresome but it paid off. I sent thos pages to CA Marshall (freelance editor) and she had like five comments--mostly about missing words and repetative S verbs that gave the read a hissing sound. I can deal with that!

PS. you have an award at my blog.


Donna Hole said...

I'll be back to read this again. I've been thinking a lot about my own writers style. This is a timely post for me.


RobertK said...

I hope it's OK to comment here. I spent 3+ years struggling with my current book for two reasons. The first was excessive editing, as Jodi mentioned. The second was style. Everything seemed overdone. Then, a couple months back I started over in a very spartan style and everything fell together.

Now, to get to the question, I'm writing thin (by any normal standard) but then paring down even more. It's exciting.

Great question! Thanks!