Revising the First Draft

By: Dennis Bates

There are basically two steps in any fiction writing project no matter how long it is. First the rough draft gets written and second the rough draft gets smoothed out. Rewrite, edit, revise, and then do it all over again. Different writers like different parts of the process, but a successful writer can do both steps with some degree of expertise.

From what I’ve read about other writers there are some who love to research and read about the historical era used in the story. Others research key elements to their story or geographical locations where the story takes place. Some writers even live in those locations for a while so they can develop a familiarity with the location that lends authenticity to their stories.

Some writers research the recesses of their memories to develop their stories about those feelings and emotions that caused them to be who they are. Other writers use a combination of the above factors, but point is that they love toe story formation process more than any other facet of writing.

I am not one of those people. I know the formation and rough draft portion of the exercise is necessary and even important, but I endure it; I don’t embrace it. For me, the most difficult part of writing fiction is writing the first draft. Almost always I hit a point somewhere into my story where I stop and say to myself, I know where I want to end up with this; I might even know how I intended to get there. I just don’t want to take the trip

I love writing beginnings and I love writing endings. It’s the infamous sagging middles that slow me down. If you saw me, you’d know there’s a metaphor in there somewhere, but let’s not go there for these purposes.

For me, the writing begins once I have the first draft. Most writing instructors will tell you that all first drafts stink. A majority of successful writers will agree with that. I am neither of those, but it’s nice to know I have at least one thing in common with them. My first drafts reek. There’s simply no other way to put it However, I get so excited when I type those two magic words: THE END. I know after I type those, I can get down to the writing I love.

Once I have the bare bones first draft finished, it’s time for revision, editing and rewriting. That’s the second step I referred to above. For me, that’s where the raw materials get polished, shaped and turned into a finished product. Sometimes at the end of that process there is very little of the original story left, and that’s okay. Without the original story, there would have been nothing for me to shape and polish. So I needed both.

I think life is a lot like the writing process in that way. God creates us and we write  the rough draft. He allows us to develop our story, our plot, our major characters, and to some extent even our genre. He even allows us to suffer through our sagging middles. But if we stop there, we have a first draft that stinks. We have to allow the author of all things to rewrite us. To edit, revise, and change the parts of us that need to be. Only after that do we emerge polished and perfectly shaped so we are fit for publication.


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