“I don’t write a quick draft and then revise; instead, I work slowly page by page, revising and polishing.”
– Dean Koontz
There are many ways to go about writing and revising a story, each of which is used by successful writers today. There is no single way, no magic formula, for this. It is something that is learned, experienced, and employed by each and every writer individually.
Some common methods are:
- Write an entire first draft, then go back and revise. Don’t go back and read the sentence you just wrote, just get the story down.
- Write some, revise some. This makes writing the first draft longer, but helps lessen the amount of revisions needed at the end.
- What first draft? Some writers make writing and revising a simultaneous process. It is no easy feat to make this work, and takes years of writing experience.
I, like Mr. Koontz, am one that writes a little and revises a little, adjusting the trim on the story as I fly through it. I feel this process works for me because I like to ensure that I’m moving the story in the right direction as I write it. In part, it’s because I’m afraid the story might derail as I go along, if I don’t go back and check on it. Plotting ahead of time helps this, though.
The main question I find with this process, though, is how much does one write before going back to revise? That is a question best answered by the writer employing the process, as every writer will have a different preference.
Which method of revision do you use?
As a writer, I’m often asked a question that is immensely difficult for me to answer:
What is your story about?
When I hear this question, my brain rifles through many answers, but can never settle on just one. I often find myself starting my answer with details about the story’s premise, but end up switching gears somewhere. It’s not because I’m a scatterbrain (though some might argue against this), but because I feel that I have so much to say.
It’s like asking Henry Ford, “tell me some things about an automobile.” Would he respond with “oh, well, it has an engine, some doors, and four wheels?” No! He’d likely go into laborious detail about it, because of his intimate knowledge on the subject. Much to the chagrin of the questioner, no doubt.
As writers, we are experts in the field of our stories. No one knows them better than we do. So, it’s only natural to have the urge to over answer on such a question. So what if your cousin obviously stops listening to you 20 seconds later, they asked!
But what happens when the question is posed by someone other than your cousin? An agent or editor, perhaps? Is it necessary (or appropriate) to give a long, drawn-out explanation of your story?
As soon as possible, a writer should develop a short hook about the story that can be delivered in 15 seconds or less. Think of it as the description that will go on the back of your book someday.
Larry Brooks of Storyfix.com has a great post to help you do this that can be found here.
Remember, you’re the expert here, you’ve got plenty of material/ideas/thoughts to pull from to put your pitch together. It’s important that you give just the right amount of detail to grab your listener’s (or reader’s) attention, then end with a statement that will make them ask for more.
When has your pitch worked for you? Let me know in the comments below.