I know, I know: Rewriting is probably not your favorite pastime. It can be so much more fun to dwell in the golden land of first-blush prose, where everything seems possible. Doing the nitty-gritty work of fine-tuning your words can seem painful by comparison.
Well, if you’re a bit skittish when it comes to redrafts, then author and journalist Constance Hale’s highly structured approach to revision might give you a few ideas. A writing coach and the creator of two popular guides, Sin and Syntax and Vex, Hex, Smash, Smooch, Constance described her revision strategy in a recent interview on BookBaby.com. The bad news: She rewrites at least seven times — that’s right, seven! — before she submits anything to an editor or writing group. The good news: at the end of this process, her prose really sings.
While seven redrafts may sound like a lot, there’s tremendous value in coming up with a consistent, customized revision strategy. Why not take a look at how Constance revises and see if there’s something helpful you can apply to your own work? Just remember, this is one approach among many:
1st draft: Getting the ideas out and on paper, just putting it all down. At this stage, Constance lets herself be “as free as possible,’ and enjoy the excitement of creating.
2nd draft: She reviews her draft and figures out what’s missing — where the holes are. She starts reorganizing and stitching pieces together again.
3rd draft: At this stage, she reads her draft and wonders what she was thinking. It all looks terrible. It’s lousy, but she keeps on writing, editing, and revising anyway.
4th draft: Even with the last round of changes, what she’s written seems unsalvageable: this is the “true depression” stage, where things seem darkest. But here and there, she finds a ray of light, sentences or ideas that she likes and wants to keep.
5th draft: At this stage, she tries to get more of “what’s clicking.” She starts getting the point of the piece and finding the voice. Writing becomes enjoyable again.
6th draft: This stage is really fun: she writes with verve and starts playing with sentences.
7th draft: At this point, she’s basically polishing and self-editing before soliciting feedback.
As this outline suggests, at the midpoint of her revision process, poor Constance is on the edge of the Slough of Despond. Even so, she knows that her draft is going to get better if “I keep my butt in the chair.” So she does — and it does get better. And better. For more advice and ideas from Constance Hale, visit: http://www.sinandsyntax.com. Write on!