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It was quite a while ago, now, that I wrote a piece about the first draft. I have been so engrossed in uni projects, this last semester, I had to temporarily put my blog to one side hence I never published my follow up piece on drafting. Here it is …
Drafting can seem like a tedious process but is actually quite exciting. I always seemed to use the drafting process to do grammar checks. I never really changed anything. I couldn’t let go of anything I had written. I felt like each piece of inspiration was sacred and it would be wrong to delete it. I was disabused of this idea after taking a poetry unit and realising that in poetry every word has to count because it is not a narrative. A poem still communicates a concept, emotion, inspiration and story but in a very pared back manner. Being a ‘wordy’ person, I found this quite difficult. I had written poetry from inspiration but it tended to go on and on communicating the concept in many different ways. I struggled through that unit but was very lucky to have a published author and editor take me for another unit that involved producing a narrative. She thoroughly edited my work and I started to see where I was being ‘over-wordy’ and too descriptive. This was such a valuable lesson and, combined with my poetry experience, I began to look at the drafting process as a place to really craft my work.
I already had the first moments of inspiration in my first draft – as I mentioned in my earlier article, this is where you can really go to town, write whatever comes, not worry about grammar or repetition because you know that you will fix this up during the drafting/editing process. I use drafting to shape my work. I apply literary techniques to take a boring sentence and turn it into an image that really communicates. I play with words, which means having my head in the dictionary frequently to look at alternatives to a word I keep repeating. I used to think that paring back and taking all the wordy descriptions out, made the story have no depth – it almost seemed boring. But if sentences are crafted to make every word count they can sound far more beautiful and endearing than a long-winded description. I love to use onomatoepoeia (the word sounds like what it is describing), alliteration (a repetition of consonants usually at the beginning of the word) and metaphor and simile. This is where word play comes in and it’s fun.
Instead of dreading the drafting process, I love it. I have produced some of my best pieces since applying the above. The novel I am mid-writing is proof of how far my writing abilities have come this last year. I had to park it to one side as full-time uni, majoring in creative writing and English, demanded I produce many different types of writing assignments and I couldn’t find the space to work on my novel as well. Going back to it after nearly 12 months has been very interesting. I am cutting out whole chunks of the narrative that are just not necessary. I couldn’t do this before. I was up to about my tenth draft and all I’d really done was proofreading. Now I look from a more critical eye and I can see from the reader’s viewpoint – this helps me to discover where I’ve gone overboard on ‘telling’ the reader what’s going on. ‘Showing’ through action, dialogue and powerful imagery is far more effective.
I hope my ideas are useful to others who struggle with letting go. If anyone would like anymore specific advice on this subject – please contact me.