A Draft from the Past

Chapins Beach

Chapins Beach

It’s interesting to reflect on how drastically things have changed in the last few decades.

Back in my student days, and those that immediately followed, I used a completely different writing process.  Then as now I usually created the idea on a walk.  After I worked the idea out in my head I sat down and wrote a first draft in pencil.  When finished I read through the draft and made corrections.   Whole sections, paragraphs, sentences and blocks of words were marked out or moved.  Other text was often written on another piece of paper with a numbering system to help me place it.  I then wrote a second draft, which was often very different from the first.  This was again written in pencil.  Then I would go back and edit again.  I very rarely did quite as much of the large scale moving blocks of text around, but then again, sometimes I did.  For an important paper I might do one more pencil draft.  Depending on where it was to go from there I would finish with a final draft in pen or on the typewriter.

So, back in the day it might take over 30,000 words written in pencil plus another 10,000 written in pen or typed to complete one 10,000 word story.

When I first transitioned over to a computer my editing skills went out the window.  I would usually do a quick draft on the computer and then proofread it immediately.  Anything I missed on a quick read through was missed forever.  Often my final draft wasn’t even really a second draft but a revised version of the first.  I would say 95% of my blog posts are still done this way.  Most of the time what you read is a quickly edited first draft.

Later I got into the awful habit of rereading the story (or the last few pages once it got too long) each time I sat down to write and edited as I read.  I still do this to some extent, but I try to avoid it.  I agree that it is usually best to write the first draft out non-stop.   To be truthful, I actually made major changes to this short post before I was halfway through.

Today when I have an idea for a story I still plan it all out in my head, but then I set it down on the computer.  For 99% of my blog posts and 70% of my other writing, it will then stay on the computer.  I read it on the computer and edit it in place.  I don’t create a new file and rewrite, it all stays in the original file.  For a very large project I may create backup copies along the way, but for a short story I will use only a single file.

I wrote four drafts for my book “The Fireborn”.  Between each draft I printed out a copy and marked up the pages by hand.  I sent copies of the later drafts to beta-readers and beta-editors and took some of their recommendations into advisement, particularly when they wanted something clarified. I also made quite a few revisions where I edited as I read through on the computer.

So if it is important, I combine all of the styles of editing, revision and drafting from my past to create the best story I can write.

What type of process do you use for editing and drafting?

 

11 thoughts on “A Draft from the Past

  1. evamarasca

    it usually starts with an idea that i note down in my small notepad. then i get on the train and write in my big notepad (what is it with me and the trains?). i write like crazy, almost forget to get off at my station, continue writing like crazy while walking (i don’t recommend to do this) and then transfer to the computer to tidy it up and because it is easier to edit.
    also what i started doing recently is that I am writing an email to myself during the day, i start in the morning and send it before i leave the office. sometimes it’s just few ideas, or quotes that i found interesting but sometimes full posts.

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    1. trentpmcd Post author

      I try to keep a notebook and a small notepad. I’ll go for a while collecting random thoughts and ideas to follow and then drop it for a while. I actually do quite well writing in my head while walk (I don’t put it in a notebook while walking), riding, etc. and then taking dictation from my mind when I hit the computer.

      I write e-mails to myself all of the time. Usually I’ll keep a Word document open on my work compuer and either cut and paste it into an e-mail message or just attach it to an e-mail at the end of the day. Quite a few of my posts (including this one) were written in little five minute jags and over lunch at work then e-mailed home.

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  2. James Pailly

    I’m no technophobe, but I don’t trust word processors. I write by hand. Then I edit by writing the whole story by hand again. And then again, and again, until I’m happy. For me, word processors are only good for final drafts.

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    1. trentpmcd Post author

      Ah, old school. Is this for everything? Is it only when you write fiction? If so, long forms or all fiction?

      I do understand. When I compose music I have to do it with pencil and paper before I put it into the notation program. With writing, though, I think I’ve started to achieve a place where I can actually do true edits on the computer, but I still print it out and do it by hand if it’s important.

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        1. trentpmcd Post author

          I know you’re not alone. I’m not a very good typist but I can still go two or three times as fast as I can with pencil. I couldn’t imagine doing all of the blog posts by hand.

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  3. M-R

    I never use grammar- or spell-correct, so most of my revision is correction of typos.
    After that ? – endless titivating. I can find little things to change for a totally unlimited time !
    Everything done on the PC.

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    1. trentpmcd Post author

      Endless is right. Every time I read through a post or story of mine I see something new I’ve missed. I don’t use grammar check because I find it annoying, but I couldn’t survive without spell check! Actually, the older I get the better I do at spelling, bu I still make tons of typos.

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      1. M-R

        I’m making more typos, these days – many more than I used to. I can’t figure out why age should bring on the creation of typos: I see no logic there …

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  4. sherinsk

    Trent are you talking about how we posts a large article on blogs.i just write in my note book first,then in the wordpress page reedits it and if it is a poem more editing etc.etc.you can delete this comment if this is not what you intended ok?

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    1. trentpmcd Post author

      This post is about anytime I write. It might be something that I write to post here or a book I am trying to get published. It could be something I am writing for work or a letter to a family member. So, no, I won’t delete your comment since it does answer the question I put forward on working methods. Instead I’ll thanks you for contributing to the conversation! So thank you!

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