Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The First Draft

"Hard writing makes for good reading," said instructor Kirsten Valdez Quade in our final summer MFA lecture on the topic of revision. Valdez Quade referred to the myth of the inspired writer who churns out abundant pages in fits of fervor. “Be suspicious of writing easily,” she warned. “Approach writing, and especially revision (the bulk of it), as work.”

While writing a first draft requires getting the ideas down in some semblance of order, “what may resemble a story is often just the skeleton,” Valdez Quade said. She defined a first draft as an initial, but complete, piece -- from its beginning to its end -- whether a short story or a chapter from a book. 

Some people (and I envy them) can accomplish this task in one sitting, which requires quieting the critical mind and allowing the words to get down on the paper, messy as they may be. My style is to edit as I go, making it meticulously slow. What appears to be a first draft is actually the product of multiple mini-drafts. (In the old days these would be the balled up sheets of paper on the floor; now the process is guised by the delete function.)

Though both approaches serve a similar goal, one downside of my writing process is it tends to get bogged down in the details. Writing at the microscopic level may result in some finely shaped sentences or a series of vignettes, but it’s more challenging to see the story’s structure and allow it to unfold. That's where revision comes in... (See next week's post.)

Dear Reader:
How do you approach the first draft?

1 comment:

lakeviewer said...

I've learned to keep going though the urge to correct is there. Yes, the work is in the revisions. Many.

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