Monday, March 23, 2009

Submitting First Drafts

So I’m sitting around contemplating the finer points of tiddlywinks when a story idea comes to me. I don’t think much about it at the time, being much more interested in my previous activity, but later I start thinking about the story and I get all excited about the story. It doesn’t take me long to develop an outline and I go to work writing away. Chapter after chapter, I develop the story and soon I have before me a new manuscript. I go to the first page and I begin reading. “That can’t be right,” I say as I realize my protagonist’s mother is dead in chapter one and he calls her on the phone in chapter ten. Then there’s the problem that his half-sister plays a key role in chapter twenty-five, but he wouldn’t have a half-sister if his mother is still alive. Something has to change. So I set to work making revisions. Then I find more mistakes and I go back and edit. I go back again, just to correct a few things. Finally, I have before me a completed manuscript, ready for the eyes of an agent.

The paragraph above is the story of every novelist. Yes, playing tiddlywinks is a requirement if you ever hope to be a respected novelist. But that isn’t why I told that story. The other day, Rachelle Gardner had a guest blogger who talked about revisions. It seems that some so-called writers don’t want to revise their work. It made me think about how what writers do is like the novels we write. If I ask you what novelist do, you would probably say, “They write stories.” If I asked you what Where the Red Fern Grows is about, you would probably say, “It’s about a boy who buys two dogs and trains them to hunt.” But, it doesn’t stop there. The training is done by the middle of the book and the rest of the book, the climactic part, is about Billy and the dogs in a competition and about the dogs attacking a mountain lion, to protect Billy, eventually leading to the death of the dogs. Compare that to the second part half of the paragraph above. Sure, writers write stories, but where we get down to business is in the revision process. That’s when things get the most exciting.

A writer who doesn’t revise is like a story without conflict, he just isn’t worth much. While writing is what we tell people we do, revision is as big of a part of what we do as writing is. It amazes me to think that there may be people out there who think they can submit a first draft and see it published. Just what kind of a writer would do that?