Thursday, December 16, 2010

First Draft vs. Revision

In one of my Q&A posts, I mentioned that I prefer revising to writing a first draft. Many readers shared their preference in their comments, and it was just as I suspected: nearly 2 to 1 prefer writing the first draft to revising (10 to 6, to be precise).

Here are some of your comments:

Old Kitty says: "I'm in full flow and loving the first draft because I don't have to worry too much about grammar and such"

Joanne at Whole Latte Life says: "I prefer revising. To me, that's when the story really gets layered, the revision process giving me an opportunity to add depth to the more rough first draft."

Jai Joshi says: "Nothing ever compares to the magic of the first draft to me, although there is a certain satisfaction in revising and polishing the manuscript to a high shine."

Julie Musil says: "It's not that I don't like the first draft, but I love it once I have something to mold."

Vicki Rochco says: "You've got the magic of the story unfolding with the first draft...but the revisions REALLY pull it together and make it sparkle."

Lisa at Leaving Nadir says: "I like the rawness of the first draft. It can go anywhere your characters want it to go. Revision is also fun in its own way as you can eliminate that which doesn't move the story along."

Myrna Foster says: "I love and hate both first drafting and revising, but revising is probably my favorite because you still get to write shiny new bits to replace those not so shiny parts."

Jennifer Shirk says: "I revise as I write. So I may write a chapter one week then spend another week revising it before moving on. It takes me awhile to write that way but at the end my book is pretty clean and ready for a beta read."

And, as DL Hammons so eloquently puts it: "Rough drafts are way more fun!! WAY!!!!"

For me, I think of first drafting and revising as two completely different processes, and I love them both. I used to prefer first drafts, but lately it seems so difficult to pull those words out of thin air, to create something out of nothing. As Julie Musil said, I really love having something to mold.

On the other hand, it's nice to write without worrying about how it sounds, knowing that I probably won't keep those exact words anyway. When I write a first draft, I give myself permission to write anything down, no matter how awful it may be. I figure I can always go back and edit it out later. The funny thing is, when I go back, I usually find it wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it was and I end up keeping a lot of it (though I throw a lot of it out, as well!)

Thanks to all my commenters for weighing in on this subject. If you haven't already told me, do you prefer first drafts or revisions, and why? And, even more pressing, have you finished your Christmas shopping???

37 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Sorry I missed your post. I prefer the editing. The first draft takes me forever.

Brian said...

Those really were interesting comments. I'm still on the first draft of my Christmas shopping!

Becky Taylor said...

I think the first draft is easier, but I tend to revise while I'm writing it. I know you're not supposed to, but if I'm click, click, clicking along and the Word auto editor kicks in to let me know something is wrong, I try to fix it right then.

Even so, I still have a million things to fix once that first draft is done. Maybe editing is more difficult for me because I realize I am no where near "done" just because the pages are all there. Also, I am not a natural editor. Mistakes don't just jump off the page for me to catch.

Yaya' s Home said...

I could be soooo happy if, once I write that first draft, the job was done. I'm afraid I get bored with a story once I've worked through the first draft.

~ Yaya

DL Hammons said...

WAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :)

Shakespeare said...

I'm with you... though the idea does not seem to be a popular one. In fact, I like revising the later drafts even more. Each time I revise through a draft, it gets SOOOO much better, and I get to relive what I created but make it more detailed, polish the dialogue a whole lot more, give it more emotional and dramatic impact, etc. I love turning it into more than it started out to be.

Joanne said...

I'm on the final edit of my Christmas shopping, with a little more wrapping to do :)

Anne Gallagher said...

I'm sorry I missed this post too. I like writing the first draft. BUT what I really like is leaving the draft for a long time and then going back and revising. I can't revise while I write or very nearly after. I like to wait and reread it because then it feels like something I haven't written. And I don't feel so bad messing with someone else's ms.

Marcia said...

I like revision WAAAAAAAAY better. The out-of-thin-air first drafting is getting harder and harder for me, it seems.

Shopping was painless this year, due to how much I did online.

Carolina Valdez Miller said...

I like revising too. It's a different kind of creativity than a first draft, though I love that, too. Both have their inherent difficulties. But I love the way a story you have envisioned begins to fully come together in the revision.

Talli Roland said...

My Christmas shopping isn't done! I haven't even started - argh!

Shannon O'Donnell said...

It's a tough one, but I think I prefer revisions. At that point I actually have something to be proud of and to re-shape, mold, the way I want it to become.

Jeanette Levellie said...

I think I prefer first drafts, but I love to edit, so the revision process is fun, too.

Almost done with my shopping. Ahhh...

Thanks for asking!

Blessed Christmas,
Jen

Margo Berendsen said...

Missed the original post, but I always pitch in my 2 cents worth. I love first drafts, LOVE THEM! - especially if I have a good outline to work off of. Just spent November in tired euphoria, hammering out 50k on a new book. Problem is before I can cook up a good outline, I usually have to stumble through the first three chapters, and then mull the whole concept and characters over for about a year, until it's ready to develop. So I guess my first drafts are a bit unusual.

I HATE revising. In fact, it's become a huge problem for me that makes me wonder if I will ever have publishable stuff.

Susan R. Mills said...

I used to prefer writing the first draft to revising, but I've recently gone to the other side. I really enjoyed revising my last project.

Jai Joshi said...

Interesting how most people prefer the first draft to revising. What's even more interesting to me is that some don't.

Looks like everyone has their own method and way of doing things that is comfortable to them. It's a good thing because it's all part of our unique creative process.

Jai

Chris Phillips said...

I agree w/ old kitty. My shopping is "mostly" done.

The Golden Eagle said...

I prefer writing a first draft rather than editing/revising because I have more freedom, more possibilities around me. I can change the plot at will, which I love doing.

Medeia Sharif said...

I like the excitement of drafting, but it's so messy that it can be frightening. I prefer revising because I get to see the manuscript take shape.

Holly Ruggiero said...

This time around, it is definitely the revision. The first draft was TOO exploratory; the revision has more substance.

Lindsay (a.k.a Isabella) said...

I like both first drafting and revising. I love the thrill of discovery with the first draft, but I love, love, love making it sparkle in revisions.

Carolyn V. said...

Totally first drafts! They are fun and exciting. I hate having to revise. It takes me forever. =)

Old Kitty said...

I am so so so so sooooooooo behind with my christmas shopping I just can't bear to think about "the list"!! LOL!!

Awww but what a great diversity of opinions on first drafts and revision!! I think it's great how different writers write!

Take care
x

Lydia K said...

Xmas shopping done, whew!

I like and am stressed out equally by both. The blank pages ahead of my cursor on the first draft completely freak me out; and in the revision, the fear of not getting it the way I really want it drives me nuts.

On the other hand, watching the story unfold in the first draft is magical, and adding the depth and seeing the more perfect revisions emerge are also really amazing.

So wishy washy!

Shallee said...

Fabulous post! It's interesting to see the different reactions people have. I love both for different reasons-- I love the ability to just spill my creativity all over the page in a first draft, and I love organizing my creativity into magic in revisions. Thanks for sharing!

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I'm enjoying working on my first draft . . . but that's only because I'm almost finished it. My favorite part is definitely the revisions. Like Lindsay said, I love to make my ms all sparkly and add depth to it. :)

Tracy said...

good post and a very significant question! As Julie mentioned, I prefer to have something to 'mold' as well so revising is it for me!

notesfromnadir said...

Thanks so much for posting these comments as it's always fun to read how others view this subject.

YES, I just finished doing my Christmas shopping today! :)

Laura Marcella said...

For me it really depends on the story. Sometimes the first draft comes so easily, I dread the difficult decisions of the revision process. And sometimes, it's wonderful getting that first draft done so I can begin shaping into what it wants to be.

My Christmas shopping is DONE! I'm still waiting for one package, though. It got missent to some other town across my state. Boo! Very annoying, but understandable considering how crazy busy & rushed delivery people are right now. I should still get it before Christmas, so that's good!

Vicki Rocho said...

Hahahah...I feel like a celebrity being quoted like that!

Julie Musil said...

Thanks for the mention! I'm with you on reading through that first draft. Some of it I think, wow, that's pretty good. Other times I think, OMG, what was I doing?

Terri Tiffany said...

What Christmas shopping?? LOL Did it in Nov. and celebrated then with daughter and family.
I love revisions much more than I do writing the first draft.

Bridgette Booth said...

Reading these comments makes me so glad that I'm not the only one who dislikes first drafts. I see a first draft and think about all the work. During revisions, I think about the progress I'm making. Also, my first drafts are really awful. Hide them awful. So revisions give my ego a boost. :)

Velva said...

I would prefer the revisions. For me, this is where it starts to come together.

Happy Holidays to you and your family!

Velva

Len said...

Hi, Susan! I love writing the first draft. It's probably because I just let the thoughts flow. However, while I don't like revisions, deleting, copying and pasting paragraphs, deleting words, replacing sentences - I still like writing the new parts. The 2nd draft feels like I know my characters better :)

Robyn Campbell said...

I like cleaning up my novels, but the first draft is so much fun, Susan. I'm discovering that as I start my next book. Though I'm thinking about trying Jen's way. Cleaning up as you go. Think I'll try that this week. TO BE CONTINUED! (((hugs)))

Theresa Milstein said...

I didn't get to weigh in before. I choose first drafts because I'm constantly impressed by my own genius. And then there's the accomplishment of completing that last line.

Only later do my illusions of grandeur coming crashing down. And then I edit.