If someone were to ask me my favorite stage of the writing process, it would definitely be the creation stage. I love the feeling of my pencil gliding across the page, my ideas just appearing before me. Typing it all up on the computer, checking the page count, seeing my characters come to life and my settings fall into place. Then, listening to the printer spit out those pages and holding this draft in my hands, smelling the hot ink fill the air (which is probably not good for my health).
Then…I’m forced to hand it over to someone else who does not bask in the gentle glow of a new story. Instead, they make suggestions, destroying every page with a comment, insertion of a comma, period or quotation and crossing out entire sentences because they just don’t belong. The proofreader, editor, friend or in my case my mother, then hands the story back to you and I enter my writing equivalent of limbo: revising and rewriting.Some of my fellow writers love the revision stage more then creating the actual story, happy that they have something to work with rather than coming up with new ideas. I just see my work trampled over with red pen marks and the occasional coffee stain in the corner. Sure, let my story be a coaster for your coffee mug, tell me how you really feel. Revising is a must because, even though it is my least favorite stage, it is also the stage I find myself generating the scenes that resonate the most with my readers. But before I get into the good about the revision process, I’m just going to focus on the bad.
The drafting stage. As writers, we are not given a lot of time to bask in the fact that we have just generated a completely new story. Most of the time this glow dims with self-doubt, pity and anxiety. We writers are gluttons for punishment and self-loathing so of course we hand the first draft to someone else and have them add to all of our anxieties as well.
I just submitted one of my stories for workshop and already I’ve found two spelling errors that Word’s spell check caught. Of course my eyes glossed over the red squiggle lines until that tiny moment of silence when you scroll over to exit out of the document. Then those red lines just shine right in your face. But the waiting, wondering and hoping that at least someone (preferably your workshop leader) thinks your story AT LEAST has potential. In May I will receive several other stories to critique and I can’t help but wonder which draft I’m holding. Is it the first draft, freshly typed and just attached to an email ready to go? Is it the fifth draft, the author questioning every scene, revising and editing to make sure they have the perfect story ready for workshop? I sent in a third draft, something that still needs improvement but isn’t so rough that the reader will get bogged down in the details and is able to consider if they enjoy the story and why.
But how many revisions does it take for a writer to put a story aside?
Sometimes it takes me two. I revise once for content and if I’m still missing a scene I try again. After that time, if the plot still isn’t clear or my character’s motivation is still unclear, I bench the story. I have one story that is currently benched because there are too many elements that aren’t completely fitting together. I like my short stories to take place in a matter of hours, this story set during a welcome home party. However, I realize that this does not always work especially in this story. Too many characters all at once, too many story lines bouncing around, too much drama but not enough explanation! When benching a story, that doesn’t mean I throw it into the trash pile. It just means, instead of revising it just needs to be rewritten.
Definitions according to K.B.Carle:
Revising: The act of correcting grammar mistakes, adding or deleting scenes or inserting descriptions in a story regarding character or place. The overall goal is to tweak an already finished story where the plot and passage of time is clear to the reader and the characters are developed, having a motive and something that hinders or makes them question their goal.
Rewriting: The act of taking a benched story and writing it all over again without referring to the previous draft. This allows the writer to see which themes remain in the new draft of the benched stories, which characters survive and what elements play an important role while others do not.
Shocker: The rewriting stage is my second favorite stage if I encounter it during the several steps of writing a short story. Why? Because it is the opportunity to create a new story once I swallow the fact that the benched draft might be a failure. Rewriting provides me the chance to witness which characters have a role in my short story, the important themes that need to be represented, lines of dialogue that may make it or not and if I really want the plot to remain the same. Normally, when rewriting, it is the plot that changes which effects my entire story. If the plot changes, everything changes!
The main plot for my benched story is simple: Two best friends are keeping secrets from each other. Once they reveal their secrets, their relationship is forever changed.
But this was too much to portray in a matter of hours at a party. Trying to develop the friendship, having one friend return home to find that everything has changed, the other friend discovering the secret, a fight scene, too much! So now I’ve decided to expand the length of time, destroying that fine thread that held my bench story together. Instead of a matter of hours the story will take place in a matter of days with the inclusion of flash backs. Unfortunately, some characters will not survive the transition and some will be born because of it.
I’m always excited to create something new but when it comes to sitting down and revising it? This moment does not influence that tingly feeling several of my friends get in their fingertips. Probably why I use a highlighter when critiquing other people’s work. I like to draw their attention to the positive moments in their story.
Then, when I am a safe distance away from them, they can grumble about the parts I did no understand, cry over every deleted moment and gripe over the appearance of commas and periods.
Or, maybe reading those suggestions inspires them, minds swimming with ideas of how to revise or rewrite the scenes I’ve marked confusing, awkward or even fantastic.
Just depends on the writer. So which stages of the writing process are your favorite and why? Do you like revising? Rewriting? Generating? What do you find to be the most frustrating thing about revising versus the most satisfying?
This post is in response to the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.