Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Making a Mad Draft to the End

I'm working through a revision of my MG project. But I can't really call it a revision, since I'm not revising. I'm rewriting the end. So much changed in the first two thirds--characters added and changed--that while the storyline and plot remain the same, the people moving around the plot are different. I'm using very little from the earlier draft in this rewrite of the end.

And it's a funny thing. Because it's not really drafting, but it's not revision either. It's a slow rewrite. A cautious thing. I imagine it might be how some people go about drafting--picking each word carefully. I couldn't draft an entire book this way. And, I'm wondering if I should be doing a fast draft to the end, instead of rewriting. Should I be speeding toward the finish line?

It reminds me of how I did Christmas prep this year. I made lists. I checked deals online. I figured out my budget and what gifts would fit into that budget. I braved black Friday(!). Everything I did was deliberate. I wrapped presents. I offered to wrap presents for my in-laws who are arriving from out-of-town. Just send them to me, I said. I don't mind. So then I wrapped more presents. I labeled boxes so wrapped presents wouldn't get mixed up. Slow and steady toward the big day. And I was ready ahead of time. And felt completely drained of Christmas spirit.

Normally my Christmas prep is a quick, mad dash. Out buying last minute gifts with grumpy shoppers. Up all night Christmas Eve wrapping. One fateful year, I ran out of tape, and my husband had to run out in the middle of the night to find an open truck stop. Not fun. Well, kind of fun. In the mad dash I normally do at Christmas time, I never run out of spirit. It's essential to get me across the finish line.

And, I'm wondering if it is the same with my writing. I always let things stew for a really long time before I even start to write. Then I write fast and hard until I get to the finish line. And then I revise. Or rewrite. So, I wonder if I should be making a mad draft to the end, to preserve the spirit of the novel.

How do you rewrite? Is it more like drafting, or more like revision? Or maybe you don't need to rewrite? Any tips for a mad drafter?


  1. You know, I think it depends on the project. Some stories pour out and others are a struggle for every word. I can understand your fear of running out of "writing spirit" by the end, but if you feel like the ending needs rewriting then maybe taking it slowly and carefully isn't the worst thing. Personally, I think writing is a lot more fun (and lasting) than Christmas anyway. :-)

  2. Anna--I hope that nothing could really make me lose the "writing spirit". I think I am going slower because I want to end the revision process at some point (soon). The theory being that I'll have less revising to do if I go slowly. This is not necessarily the case. I like your perspective that writing lasts longer than the fleeting holiday season!

  3. This is interesting. On four novels I've written (nothing published yet) I've been someone who wrote feverishly, ending in a mad dash. This remained true during rewrites on those novels, for the most part. However, the YA that I'm shopping around to agents at the moment (and that I have high hopes for) I wrote at a steady dog-trot, and I did the rewrites the very same way. It wasn't something I planned, it was just how that story came out of me. Of course, the more you write, the more you learn and the more at least some of the way you think changes. My current WIPs are crawling, but I've been stressed, so that might be more of a factor than anything else. It's funny what slows you down and what sends you sailing along.

  4. First, thanks for your comment on my blog on December 10th -- you've convinced me to return.

    Second, I just finished another novel that poured out 90% in one month...then shut down for 10 months. I had to force it back up just to finish it and move on and it was akin to endless hours of Christmas Musak. It was, as you say, a mad dash, but a painful one. I have grown to love the rewrite/revision/drafting -- whatever it turns out to be. It has given me the freedom to suck the first time around. And what I finally realized is that whether I force it or let it flow, it sucks the same the first time around and both need equal revision. And my revisions are usually rewrites -- deleting entire sections and writing new chapters. Only near the very end am I finally tweaking sentences. My one published novel had approximately 12 official full edits. but it's worth it in the end.

  5. A.Grey-- I'm hoping the process gets more efficient as I write more and more.

  6. Alex--Welcome back! It's great to see you. I agree with you--and I wish that someone had told me sooner that every first draft sucks. It does free you up! Thanks so much for telling me I'm not alone in that. I think that the thinking time in between the writing and the rewriting to be the most valuable. And I am very lucky to have wonderful feedback from a writing partner. I'm glad you're back.

  7. Don't need to rewrite? Does such a person exist?

    I don't know. I rewrite as I'm writing so it all seems a bit slow, but it's not really. And I rewrote the last half of my first book based on a reviewer's comments. Totally changed location and action, but not the people. I also edited that book to death over a very long period of time. Learned a lot, but killed the book.

  8. I don't know if such a person exists--for me things always change enough during revision that a rewrite of parts is always necessary.

    I hope not to revise my book to death. That's a tough one. That's a bummer about yours. Any hope of reviving?