(Note – This was first publish in January of 2014. Something reminded me of it so I decided to bring it back)
“OK, I’m finished.”
The painting instructor came over to look at my work. He studied it intently, his brow furrowing. After a few minutes he asked, “You’re done? Is this a study? I think this looks pretty good so you should continue working with it.” He left to check someone else’s work.
I looked the painting over. This was the first painting of my first painting class. I had taken a few drawing classes and had played around with painting for years, but this was my inaugural painting of my art education. And it was done, finished.
I had an hour left so I started doing a few corrections. Maybe if I blended this a little more. OK, some more detail there. A highlight here would work. And maybe some shading. Oh, and I guess I could touch this up. How about…?
“OK, start cleaning up.” I looked up from the painting. I had just begun! I laughed and looked back to it. 90% of the “work” had been completed when I had first called it finished, but the difference that 10% made! It was a different piece entirely. The shapes, colors and shading where all pretty much the same, but….
I quickly learned that what I had considered complete in the past in reality was just the start. Sometimes the “finished” work was a study I would use as reference to create the final. Other times it was the base that I would use to create the real painting. My paintings quickly improved.
A few years later I was studying classical and “contemporary concert music” composition. I quickly rediscovered the “I’m done” effect. When I sit back and say to myself that the work has been completed I need to think of it as just the beginning. A few drafts in and I could shine things up to a much higher level. I left most of my works as studies or partially unpolished, but I did it knowingly. When I took the time the extra effort was always well worth it. Sometimes the polishing would take 3 times as much time as the “finished product” , changing less than 5% of the notes, yet the effort would move the composition from a nice amateur study to a piece I could be very proud of.
Every author knows that a first draft is just that: a draft. Usually the second draft is still pretty rough around the edges. There are people who do six or seven drafts before they call it complete. We all know this, and yet it is often hard to put into practice.
It can take months or years to write 75,000 or 85,000 words. It can take days to read through these words. After all of the time spent it is hard to say, “OK, back to the beginning.” It is difficult, but it’s a must. We have to do it.
The second draft of my current book was a complete rewrite. I went from under 60,000 words to over 75,000. There was a much smaller change between the second and third draft, yet I deleted several thousand words and added more to push the total up to 77,000 words. I’ve had 2 minor revisions since then. Overall I have spent more time on the revisions than on the first draft. I know there are still mistakes and rough spots to smooth out. But it is a totally different book. I just read through it and found I was so involved in reading I couldn’t edit. That’s what I’m aiming for….
So, how much time do you spend revising and editing? Do you find your ending point is really just the beginning?
Oh well, enough resting on my laurels. Time to get up and really polish it up some more and create another good draft.
Self Portrait in oils by Trent P McDonald & partially deconstructed on the computer…..