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27 March 2008 @ 02:01 pm
One of the useful things about writing short fiction is, it reminds me in a sort of snapshot form what my writing process is like.

I turned in a short story a few days ago--and looking back, it took me five drafts:

Draft 1: Write the wrong story. But sort of kind of get a feel for what the right story is about. (The exploratory draft.)
Draft 2: Write the right story. But with all the wrong words, muddled arcs, and not enough sensory vividness.
Draft 3: Get something approaching the right words. Only with lots of the wrong words still mixed in.
Draft 4: More right words. Not so many wrong words. Much tighter.
Draft 5: Polish until my teeth hurt.

Or something like that. This is pretty much a minimum, for me--that story went unusually smoothly. Any one of these draft stages can get repeated multiple times.

But it's good for me to remember this. Because today I finished the second draft of Thief Eyes, and it really is a merry muddle.

But instead of despairing, I look at the above and think, no, draft two is right on target for what a draft two generally is, given my writing process.

And for about the millionth time, I take that leap of faith: There is a book here. I'll get there yet.
Angela L. Foxazang on March 27th, 2008 10:40 pm (UTC)
I love your phrasing, "polish until my teeth hurt."
Good for you for encouraging yourself. I am having a hell of a time, every time I make a run for that hurdle, I don't have enough confidence to make that leap. But, I will work it out, I know I will.
Ástatheloa on March 27th, 2008 10:51 pm (UTC)
That's a really useful list. Too often I've looked at the idea of draft 5 and have had no idea how to get there. Hence my lack of output.
Janni Lee Simner: clayweblogjanni on March 28th, 2008 02:03 am (UTC)
Right now, of course, I'm at the stage of wondering how on earth I'm goinjg to get there, too! :-)
ex_kmessner on March 28th, 2008 01:36 am (UTC)
Celebrate that draft!! I am plugging away fiercely toward my March 31 deadline, still 6 chapters from the end and sweating it out. I'm mightily impressed with your early finish!
Janni Lee Simner: clayweblogjanni on March 28th, 2008 02:04 am (UTC)
You can do it! :-)

Of course, I started in February (and was already partway in) which helped lots ...
(Deleted comment)
betsywritesbetsywrites on March 30th, 2008 07:37 pm (UTC)
Five drafts. Wow!
I've been using your post as an example to my students about how writing is a process, not a one time action.
This is a very hard lesson to teach, and to learn.
Writing is like modeling clay. They work with clay in art, so it's a good enough analogy. You start with a lump of clay that you want to be a cat. That's the first draft. This means you have a lot of words on paper already. Getting that first draft is like mixing the powder with water. Once you have that lump of clay, you take steps to squeeze it and pick off bits and roll them around and stick them back on in different places to make it more and more cat shaped. Once you have the form, you start tweaking the details, going over the clay again and again to get it as close as you can to the picture ion your mind. Then when you feel there's not much more you can do to it, and most people recognize it as a cat and respond to it, you might decide you are done.
Don't try to turn in a lump of clay and tell me it's a cat.
Now if I can only follow your example myself.
Janni Lee Simner: clayweblogjanni on April 1st, 2008 04:18 pm (UTC)
And it's only five drafts, because the story went particularly smoothly! :-)

I like the idea of not turning in a lump of clay instead of a cat. (I think of it as clay, too.) It's not done until it's done.

In my old St. Louis writer's group, they used to say, "It isn't soup yet."

I also think of writing, sometimes, as a series of successively closer approximations working toward the final story. :-)