Now that we’re well and truly into the middle of autumn it’s time for some more action on this website. Beginning Wednesday, November 12th and following through the fall and into the winter, each week I’ll post up a section of a rough draft that I’m working on along with my revisions and edits for it. Due to submissions policies for a lot of magazines, I can’t post up full drafts. But, I will at least put up a few paragraphs, if not an entire scene. It depends on the length of the full story as to how much I am comfortable posting up.
The purpose of this is to help illustrate the evolving nature of the editorial process, and to hopefully reinforce to inspiring writers that the prose can – and often does – suck when it first comes out in a rough draft. I used to waste so much time trying to write the perfect first draft, and it wasn’t until years later that I realized I needed to turn the analytical side of my brain off during the creative phase of writing. Editing as I went just dragged me down and kept me from finishing stories at all.
Writers typically put out a lot of drafts of stories before they arrive at a final piece. At the very least, there’s usually a rough draft and then an edited version of that draft that gets submitted. For me, I tend to go through the following format for writing short stories:
- Brainstorming Stage – Try to come up with a spark, a bit of an idea that can be fully developed. Lots of free writing and thinking here, and it gets messy. It’s fun, though!
- Outlining Stage – Once an idea has been given some semblance of form, we move into the outlining phase. This is where characters get more developed, the plot structure takes shape, and the overall themes – if any – are decided on. An outline can be anything from a few sentences about the beginning, middle, and end, or it can be more detailed and rigid in form. I tend towards the detailed side of things, but there’s no right or wrong way to outline.
- Rough Draft – This is where creativity takes over again and I let my brain spit out the story it’s been dying to tell for days or weeks. I let it be rough, and I let it be terrible. The idea is to get it out while I’m still on fire to write it.
- Second Draft – Now I get somewhat analytical, but still mostly creative. I read over the rough draft and compare it to my original outline. Does the draft achieve the goals I set out in the outline, or did I go off on a tangent somewhere? If I went off on a tangent, is it a better tangent than what was originally supplied in the outline? If so, the outline needs to be adjusted to accommodate for this change. If not, the story will need to be altered to bring it back in line with the outline. Scenes are looked over to see where things can be tightened, combined, and eliminated while still retaining key story elements. The story is then rewritten, sometime from scratch, with these notes in mind.
- Final Draft Editing – After the story has been reworked to what I consider perfection it’s time to go through it as an editor would and prove that it is not perfect at all! I first edit by scene, again to see if anything can be tightened up, combined, or eliminated. After that I edit by paragraph, to make sure each paragraph accomplishes what I want it to in the story. Lastly, a sentence edit to catch anything missed in the paragraph edit. I didn’t used to go as in-depth with my edits, but I’ve been cut in the final selections of a few professional publications for what I consider less-than-professional mistakes on my part. Also, I’ve had a good editor for two of my stories over the last six months (Venessa Giunta over at Fictionvale. Read and submit to her magazine! She is a great editor and teacher).
“Drafty Wednesdays” will focus on the rough draft and final draft editing phases. Enjoy!