Reflections on watching the story go from messy rough draft to final, polished draft…
Last week I posted the final draft of “Rainey’s painting,” edited based on professional editor Jeni Chapelle’s feedback. This week is a time for reflection on the Writer-in-Motion experience.
Revelation 1: revision with a process is new to me, but I’m sold
Usually when I revise I am working on “everything at once” as I go through the draft. When I’m self-editing, I basically fix anything I see as I go. If I see a big-picture change I need to make, I either do it then or in the next pass. So it’s not like I have “no process,” but at the same time, “fixing everything” isn’t really a process.
Writer in Motion was systematic. First week, you write what you can and no backsies (that is, no backspace/corrections/changes). Let it be what it is. As hard as this was, living through such a rough draft that would be shared, and letting it stand on its own – that’s new for me.
After week one, having a revision system and a deadline, a step I was taking each week, really helped me move the story along in a way that was much more efficient than what I’m used to doing.
Revelation 2: “out of time, party over, pencils down” is a great way to keep momentum
Aside from Week 1, I never had the amount of time I wanted to devote to that particular week of revision. Not once. But the limited time forced me to focus and prioritize, doing what absolutely needed to be done first, using any extra time on “nice to haves” in the story, and it has to be done when the clock says it is. So you call it “done.” You move on.
Normally, I would use that time in a less disciplined way, still revising the whole time, but not ending up as far along overall at the end of the sitting. Then I’d pick it up next time. I’d take three sittings to get to something close to what I could do in one sitting here, just by prioritizing.
Revelation 3: I am not a good judge of when a draft is close to final
I would have done so much more reworking and tearing-apart on this draft than what Jeni recommended for the story. And it would have been ok to do all that work, except there are other stories to write!! While it’s no good to call a story “done” too soon, it’s just as bad to spend more time than you need to on it.
Author Michael Stackpole has said (in his wonderful writing workshops at DragonCon) that you can tell you’re getting to the end of your own potential with a particular story when your current draft is less than 10% different from your former one. Then it’s time to get other eyes on the paper to move ahead. With this short format (versus the novel I’m working on) it was much easier to actually see this rule in action because there’s not so much prose to track.
Final analysis: Writer in Motion is a great experience and I highly recommend it to anyone who is serious about growing as a writer. I’m grateful to the Writer in Motion organizers and community for welcoming me this year!
Catch up on my prior Writer in Motion posts here: