Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Spending Too Much Time On The First Draft

Photo courtesy of Pixabay and Voltamax
I’m always on the lookout for ways to increase my writing speed. Based on what other writers tell me, I spend a lot more time on first drafts than everyone else. There are various reasons for this, but one of the biggies is that I revise as I write. Not full revisions, mind you, but if I know that a sentence or paragraph doesn’t make complete sense, I have to fix them before I can go on. Or if my descriptions sound like bullet lists, my muse refuses to cooperate until I go back and dress them up a little. Or if a logic flaw rears its head…. Well, you get the drill.

I know writers are supposed to speed through the first draft, but leaving behind a big pile of problems that need to be fixed later just seems like procrastination. Better if I fix some of the more glaring problems right then and there while the scene is still fresh in my mind. Now these aren’t my final revisions. Oh no, far from it. But they’re enough to allow me to move on with a clear conscience.

But here’s my problem. After spending all that time thinking about these first draft revisions, I’ve discovered that the resulting sentences and paragraphs kind of get locked down in my head. So when I return later during the editing phase, I often can’t visualize writing the words in any other way, even when I know there’s a problem. I can tweak a word here or there with no problem, but if a paragraph needs to be blown up and rewritten from scratch, it can take days for me to recognize this. The number of hours I’ve wasted staring at a paragraph that isn’t working before I realized a simple reordering of words would solve the problem is embarrassingly high.

So now I’m trying a new approach. From now on, whenever I feel the need to revise during the first draft, I’ll make sure to keep my added sentences short and full of telling prose. That way I’ll have no choice but to rewrite them from scratch.

Will my muse allow this? Only time will tell.

ChemistKen


12 comments:

  1. I always take forever on a first draft because I revise as I go. Or more accurately, I won't actually write a sentence until it's perfect in my head. I'm trying to get out of the habit, just write the ideas down even if I know the words aren't that great. At least if the idea is there, I can go back and fix it, and figure out the perfect way to say it.

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    1. Sometimes the revisions that occur to me during the first draft are pretty good. I fear that if I wait until later to fix the problem, I won't always come up with as good an idea.

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  2. I like to let the words flow and find more emotion in what I've written. If I revise before I get the work down completely, it loses something. I think I edit it out.

    Whatever method a person uses doesn't matter. What's important is it works for them. Keep at it and you'll find your perfect method. :-)

    Anna from elements of emaginette

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    1. My emotional mindset doesn't seem to appear until I revise, so my first draft are all about getting the sequence of actions down onto the page and in the right order. Thanks for stopping by.

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  3. Trying to trick your brain, huh?
    Writing that first draft is my least favorite part. I spend more time on the outline than I do writing it because I do manage to power through it. (Although I do adjust things as I write.) That way it's not a mess at the end and I can get down to what I really enjoy - editing and revising.

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    1. I'd probably enjoy editing and revising if I felt like I knew what I was doing. That's why I like to fix things up as much as possible during the rough draft stage--so there's less to do during the editing phase. :)

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  4. I also am very slow with my first drafts. I can't get over my perfectionist streak enough, it seems. I hate that it takes me so long, but on the plus side, my revision and editing cycle is relatively short. I mean, my first draft isn't perfect, but it's not a steaming pile of rubble either. It's usually already a mostly finished house that needs some paint and curtains. So, I guess what I'm saying is, it doesn't matter so much *where* you put in the time, so long as you end up with a sturdy house when you're done?

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  5. I do the same, so I can't tell if I'm on draft 1 or draft 1.5.

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  6. I suppose it might depend on how long you wait between finishing your draft and returning to it for editing. I revise as I go as well, but I also leave a large gap from when I put it down to when I pick it up again. Therefore, I'm more willing to hack away at it when I return. It works for me because I have multiple projects I work on at a time.

    Best of luck with your plan of attack! I think leaving it for later would drive me nuts, and that's big coming from a squirrel.

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  7. I never speed through the first draft. I take my time and edit as I go. There's not really anything that a writer should or should not do. We all work differently.

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  8. I also edit as I go. If I leave a known problem in a paragraph, I'll feel horribly unsure about what I'm doing in the next paragraph, and even more so if I try to move on to the next scene.

    However, that does sometimes make revisions harder later. I know what you mean when you say you feel the words are locked down. I'll be interested to hear how your experiment goes.

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  9. Do whatever helps you finish the first draft. All I know is I can't ever finish any novel I start. I'm still looking for a solution to that problem.

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