Thursday, July 16, 2009

Summer Musings, Revision, and A slow Man’s Method for Plotting

John here. Teaching at an independent school is wonderful for many reasons: I get to talk about great books every day, teach a Mystery Literature course, coach golf, and of course there’s summer vacation, which, as of this writing, is in full swing. While my colleagues mull away their days running, fishing, golfing, and spending time with their families, I try to do lots of writing. Not to the total exclusion of the items on that list (especially since 7-month-old Keeley is now crawling), but I do shoot for three to five pages a day.

Last summer, I completed 100 pages between June and August. I wish I’d have gotten more done, but I revise as I go, foolishly believing I’m generating finished copy, which slows me down. Many writers have told me they write the first draft of a novel straight through and then go back and revise. I wish I could do that and don’t know exactly why I can’t. I realize I’m something of a perfectionist, but I don’t think that’s it. I never know what will happen more than a couple scenes ahead of where I currently am in the book I’m writing, so I think that rereading each scene several times and endlessly tinkering gives me a chance to think things through, a method that perhaps has become part of my plotting process.

Everyone has their own process. I know a writer who swears that he must write the first draft single spaced and then double spaces when he revises. He says he needs to “see how it will look on the printed page” as he drafts. When I was on a panel at Bouchercon, a writer who works as a lawyer, said she creates 30-page outlines, including dialogue, for a 300-page novel.

Once again, I’ll call on my blog mates and any readers: What are your thoughts and methods for the revision process? And why?


Vicki Delany said...

One thing I've learned - is that there is no right way, and you can't tell anyone how they should work. Is that 2 things? I write the first draft all the way through, making notes as things change, and then do a big revision to tie it all together.

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Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I think everyone should do what works for them.

What works for me is to write out the first draft, then go back in afterward to revise. But I've heard from other writers who do a great job revising as they go.

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Rick Blechta said...

I write straight through, print it all out, throw all the pages up in the air and then collect them. If it's coming out better this way, I plan on giving up writing.

So far, my first draft is better than the random pages flung together, all though there have been some interesting serendipitous combinations.

Seriously, I do it sort of the way you do, John. Writing out a 30-page plot outline sounds about as much fun as having all your teeth pulled with no novocaine.

Donis Casey said...

I've done revising as I go and revising on the fly, but generally I write the first draft, then go back and revise, then revise again, and again. And again. Eventually my editor drives to my house and knocks me in the head and pries the pages out of my hand.

Patricia Haddock said...

I write the same way. Write, revise, write. The work builds like a pearl, layer upon layer. I can't just slam it all down because what I do today changes what I did yesterday. Pat