Drafting and polishing

About a week ago I finished the 3rd draft of my mess-in-progress. Maybe it’s my imagination, but do I hear a collective groan? Or is it just that I sometimes feel as if five years from now I’ll be announcing the completion of the 327th draft or thereabouts. Because sometimes–and particularly with this story–I wonder if I’m just repainting the Golden Gate Bridge one more time.

A happier metaphor for my writing process involves skiing. When I’ve been to ski resorts with friends, most of them like to try as many different slopes as possible. Once they’ve gotten down a slope in one piece they feel they’ve “conquered” it. Me, I like to keep at it until I get it “right”. The first few times I’m just trying to figure out the fall line, where the ice patches and moguls are, etc… Once I’ve done that, I can approach it with confidence and something I hope approaches grace.

With my writing it’s the same. Unlike other creative people who start a project–which could be a novel, a sweater or a computer program–in a spirit of fun and adventure, I’m always worrying about failure. I know, I’m a wimp! So it takes me 2-3 drafts to get a good feel for my characters and plot. Then comes my favorite part of the process: putting it all together, polishing until it feels right. And I’m finally there. ๐Ÿ™‚

Anyway, I’m not saying that others don’t do a good job with finishing and polishing. Professionals do all the parts of the process, even those we find scary, tedious, unpleasant or whatever. It’s just that we all have our favorite parts.

So how about you? Do you enjoy starting a project of any sort? Or do you prefer the final stages, when it all comes together? How about the messy process in between? Or do you enjoy it all (in which case I’ll try not to be too envious)?


About Elena Greene

Elena Greene grew up reading anything she could lay her hands on, including her mother's Georgette Heyer novels. She also enjoyed writing but decided to pursue a more practical career in software engineering. Fate intervened when she was sent on a three year international assignment to England, where she was inspired to start writing romances set in the Regency. Her books have won the National Readers' Choice Award, the Desert Rose Golden Quill and the Colorado Romance Writers' Award of Excellence. Her Super Regency, LADY DEARING'S MASQUERADE, won RT Book Club's award for Best Regency Romance of 2005 and made the Kindle Top 100 list in 2011. When not writing, Elena enjoys swimming, cooking, meditation, playing the piano, volunteer work and craft projects. She lives in upstate New York with her two daughters and more yarn, wire and beads than she would like to admit.
This entry was posted in Writing and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to Drafting and polishing

  1. Ladyhawk says:

    Never thought about it before, but now that you’ve mentioned it, I realize that I actually like the middle and ending part best. I don’t like the blank page beginning. I’m very good at picking up projects others have started and running with them. With writing, suggestions from readers are my favourite jumping off points.

  2. I enjoy the beginning and the end of a project. It’s the middle bit when you’re trying to hold down your plot from going off on a tangent. I don’t find that first blank page that scary, it’s the other blank pages that do it! Most of the time the beginning flows smoothly and the end but getting that dreaded middle right can be tough.

  3. Cara King says:

    I may find the beginning the most fun — the brainstorming, pre-plotting and early plotting — though I also find it stressful!

    The ending, though, is nice too. ๐Ÿ™‚


  4. janegeorge says:

    Editing mode and writing mode are two very different states of mind for me.

    I’m hoping to find an easier way to switch back and forth because I like to start something new while I’m editing up the last project.

    I love the heady, wow, I just got a great idea phase, and I like saving that “final draft” file. Tw

  5. Elena Greene says:

    I’m hoping to find an easier way to switch back and forth because I like to start something new while I’m editing up the last project.

    I used to finish one work then start the next but the transition was always tough. Over the last few years I’ve taken occasional breaks from this monster (between drafts) to tinker with other stories. So once I’m done I’ll have some things started and won’t have to face that first blank page–always the hardest for me!

  6. Keira takes off at a dead run…

  7. Beginning and end, definitely. I like researching and thinking about the story, when it’s all new and fresh and fun. And I like writing The End. Right now I’m in the not-so-fun part, in the middle. I know where I need to go, but not quite how to get there without boring every reader silly. Sigh.

  8. Diane Gaston says:

    I’m a better rewriter than a writer so I like revising the best. But I have terrible times figuring out endings. I like first chapters, because I can make them as exciting as possible.

  9. doglady says:

    I love the beginning and the end the first time around. The middle can be a pain. But the REVISIONS ALL REEK! I am in the middle of it and it is agonizing! So much so that I have started my second novel while still revising my first just to keep myself sane. And I always scribble notes on other books that are just in the simmering the water before adding the vegetables stage.

  10. Diane Gaston says:

    Diane says: I like revising the best.

    O Doggy one says: REVISIONS ALL REEK!

    Hee hee hee hee hee hee

  11. Elena Greene says:

    Diane says: I like revising the best.

    O Doggy one says: REVISIONS ALL REEK!

    Hee hee hee hee hee hee

    LOL! Just what I expected when I blogged on this subject. Just curious, O Doggy one, why do you think revisions reek?

  12. doglady says:

    I think revisions reek because I tend to agonize over what to cut and what to keep. I take it all so personally. I am editing my baby, after all. We all think are baby is perfect (yeah,right!) Of course this IS my first novel and it went @150,00 words for God’s sake! Then my hero and heroine’s inner conflicts showed up halfway through so I have to cut a bunch of stuff and then add a bunch of stuff to make those conflicts apparent. See what I mean? EEEEEEK

  13. Elena Greene says:

    Yes, I see what you mean! The way I do things I avoid that particular hell, not that I’m saying my methods are best, not by a long shot!

    I do multiple quick and dirty drafts. The final round (which I’m approaching now) is pretty much a complete rewrite. What I do have going in is a really good sense of the characters and a detailed plot. What I don’t have is any nice prose I’d regret cutting. No darlings to kill here.

  14. Elena Greene says:

    As I was skiing today I came up with a theory about this issue. Maybe it’s some sort of Thrill/Fear factor. The phases of writing we enjoy are challenging enough to be thrilling but not so difficult we’re afraid of crashing and burning. Maybe the phases we don’t enjoy are the ones that are either too scary or too easy?

  15. Todd says:

    Back when I was young and foolish–the first, at least, no longer strictly applies–I started writing books several times. So I have written a fair number of first chapters! ๐Ÿ™‚ I think that’s one reason why I found Italo Calvino’s If On a Winter’s Night a Traveler so funny–it’s basically ten first chapters surrounded by a frame story.


Comments are closed.