The Never-Ending Drafting Process

I am writing this post to escape revision. My writerly soul is crying out to write something new, rather than just bulldoze sentences or play Jenga with paragraphs.

Thank you, blog, for saving me.

The revising process is one hell of a place to tread into. I’m on my eleventy billionth draft right now. I feel like Alice, trapped in a strange and repetitive world.

The Second Draft

Neverending drafting process - second draftI was almost, note I wrote, almost, excited to begin the second draft.

I dutifully put the first draft away for a month. It languished in a drawer and I left it there. Okay, I peeked a few times. I was the kid who jiggled and poked the presents under the Christmas tree.

The first draft snapped my fingers off when I illicitly peeked. It gave me snippets of truly shitty writing. I decided it was best to look at the whole thing in, say, 368 years.

I am a fool. I forgot the dangerous snooping. I cracked that bad boy open 30 days later.

I started working on the second draft. Pandora’s Box, and then some, flooded out.

Kids, here’s a lesson for you. Yes, you can make your first draft rubbish. Write as freely as possible. DO NOT EVER FORGET THAT THERE IS A SECOND DRAFT LOOMING.

My second draft was a case of wondering why so many characters had changed sex, hair colour, or their role within the novel.

Many characters dyed their hair or literally died. I lost no sleep. ‘Tis the way of the writer.

I Defy You Not to Edit

All the proper grown-up writers will tell you not to edit as you revise. The sages state continuously to save it to the end.

I defy you not to edit a single thing whilst you’re revising.

I don’t know about you but if someone tells me not to do something, I often feel more compelled to do the thing. I am reverse psychology’s dream.

I understand why getting bogged down with editing is ridiculous when you’re on the early drafts. You edit pages you’ll probably cull in the next draft anyway. It’s wasted time. However…

Technology is a bitch. My pedantic, previous English teacher self cannot ignore a red line on a page. For me, it’s like crack. The red lines in my documents tell me my brain and fingers had a falling out when I was typing.

It tells me you do not spell ridiculous as riduablia. My perfection senses tingle. I cannot leave it there.

Riduablia haunts me.

Riduablia tells me I am rubbish at writing.

Riduablia must die.

I correct it and win the day. Yes, it’s ridiculous and so very not, riduablia.

A quotation mark is missing, a comma gone astray. I tell them I will tend to them later.

I bloody well go and add them, feeling sorry for the poor, missing punctuation.

I resolve not to edit any further. I tappety-tap away, adding sparkling sentences ( I wish).

I AM WINNING. I even pushed past a dodgy semi-colon.

Then a whole line is underlined. A WHOLE GRAMMATICALLY INCORRECT LINE.

I sweat.

I go for a run.

I cease revising for a month.

I eat, sleep, and breathe that crappy line.

I return to my nemesis.

I look it in the green wobbly lined eye.

I  leave it there.

I have won. I think. Possibly not.

The Will to Live

It leaves you with each draft. That is all you need to know.

Swings and Roundabouts

Neverending drafting process - revisionsThroughout the revising progress I swing from ‘I have the writing ability of a three-year-old denied their favourite crayon’ to ‘Make way for the next Pulitzer Prize winner’. Both are stoopid.

There is nothing like writing to take you from zero to hero within seconds.

Some days I read back a chapter and think I’ve cracked it. This is what I am about. This is my novel. I’ve finally captured the art of writing, and conveyed my heart and soul within this section.

Then the next chapter shows I’ve still a long way to go.

My descriptions are primary school level, at best. People are merely tall or short. The sun just, well, shines. My characters nod or shake their heads so many flaming times I’m surprised their heads haven’t fallen off.

This grasshopper still has a lot to learn and a lot of patience to accrue.

When Does it End?

Revising is like a maze. You think you’ve found the exit but an obstacle often stops you in your tracks.

Neverending drafting process - internetI still have a way to go with this novel’s revision process. I hope I’m not still revising it when I’m on my death bed and searching for that one errant comma I forgot to sort out in 2018.

Revising could last forever if we wanted it to. There will always be something else to change or add. Just like that moment when you know you’ve reached the end of your first draft, you have to trust that moment when it’s time to say, ‘The End’.

Our novels will never be truly ready. We will read them, in their published guise, one day, spot a minor error, and want to give up writing.

I know I will struggle with letting go. It’s scary to let go of your little one and watch them go out into the world.

Your novel is all snuggly in your revising arms. You hold it tight. No-one can harm it or you. Revising forever keeps it close.

A novel has to grow up too. Don’t be a smothering parent. Adults who never leave their parent’s embrace become weirdos and people you read about in the news.

Don’t make your novel a psychopath. Let it run free and let the world see it. Hide under the bed when you do but let that blighter go.

Remind me of this in the future.

Share Your Drafting Processes and Stories

Give some tips, make me laugh whilst I feel like jumping out the window with this draft, or just lose your shit right here in the comments about revising.

If you love revising or want to tell us how amazing you are at it; go away. No, stay and love my blog but just shhh.

For the rest of us, this is a safe place where no-one will laugh or judge you.

Well, I might but you’ll never know…

About Lisa Sell

Lisa Sell is a fiction writer and blogger. When not wrestling with words she can be found showing the love for chocolate, cheese, coffee, the cat, and the Husband. Not particularly in that order.

10 comments on “The Never-Ending Drafting Process

  1. Your article is so much fun. Of course we edit as we go, and re-edit ad nauseum. Rules were meant to be broken. Don’t touch the draft? lol That is daft. As always Lisa, well said.

  2. “I know I will struggle with letting go. It’s scary to let go of your little one and watch them go out into the world.”

    I know what you mean. In a piece I wrote a while ago, I compared it to the end of pregnancy and your baby being in the crib rather than safe inside.

    I’ve got better and not fiddling whilst drafting – but that’s because I use Ulysses so I’m not exposed to all the bossy instructions on Pages 😉

  3. I have to fix those weird misspelled words immediately otherwise I can’t remember what word I actually wanted to be there in the first place. And I do read back 3 or 4 pages every time I continue my writing, so I fix the odd things I see. I find this helps big time with draft two. Once I have draft two cleaned up I send it to the editor to let them tell me all my mistakes. But I am also a grammar illiterate, therefore I need the editor’s trained eye.

    1. It’s great that you work in a manner that suits YOU. I hate this ‘writing rules’ business. What suits one may not work for others.

      I also change those weird words for fear of never knowing what on earth I was spouting on about!

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Theresa.

  4. I’m not even at the draft stage yet but I’m tempted look back and start editing already. In the long run it’ll stop me from ever finishing my book so I’m resisting temptation!

    1. Enjoy the freedom of flying your fingers over the keyboard in the first draft! It’s so liberating. You’ll appreciate it once you start revising.

      Thanks for commenting, Debbie.

  5. I, as I pointed out in my blog ‘The First Draft is Always Crap’, I revise and edit as I write so don’t approach the nearly finished story as an illiterate mess. When I stop writing not much needs changing. Does it slow me down? Sometimes, but it also gives me time to think. But everybody is different, so as Stevie Nicks once sang ‘go your own way’.

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