Monday, November 23, 2009

The Worst Draft

We assume that our work will be scrutinized. Why would we write if we didn’t think people would read it and why would we do revisions if we thought people could discern the story from our ramblings in the first draft?  No, as we write, we assume that someone will come back later and question why we wrote something.


Of the four writer’s drafts, the third draft falls under the most scrutiny from readers. This is the draft in which we are primarily concerned with sentence and paragraph structure. Just the other day, I saw an article about Dan Brown's 20 Worst Sentences. I’m sure you’ve probably seen it. It mentions sentences like, “Only those with a keen eye would notice his 14-karat gold bishop's ring with purple amethyst, large diamonds, and hand-tooled mitre-crozier appliqué.” (The Da Vinci Code, Chapter 5) And this one from chapter four: “Five months ago, the kaleidoscope of power had been shaken, and Aringarosa was still reeling from the blow.” While I laughed about how a ridiculously obvious ring can only be seen by a keen eye and how Aringarosa appears to have been hit by the kaleidoscope, I couldn’t help but see the danger of me making similar mistakes. That second one is so common among writers that it has a name. It is called a mixed metaphor. We don’t set out to create bad sentences like this, they just happen. Our only hope is that we’ll catch them and correct them before the reader sees them.


I doubt my writing will ever get the attention that of Dan Brown gets, but I still don’t like the idea of people finding a lot of mistakes like that in my writing. To avoid that, we have to be highly critical of our work as we develop the third draft. We must be many times more critical of our own work than our readers will be. If there is any question about whether a sentence sounds right or not, we should reword it and make it better.

You may be thinking that if Dan Brown can get away with what he does, then there’s hope for the rest of us. Frankly, I don’t know why Dan Brown has sold as many books as he has, but I'm pretty sure it isn’t because of the quality of writing. Just because one writer can get away with bad writing doesn’t mean that we all can. If for no other reason than pride, let’s go do what it appears Dan Brown did not. Let’s go perfect our third draft.