Writer's Journal Day #2005: Going from big to small

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by Tim Burdick on 31 July, 2014

I once thought writing was like building a wall. Each brick had to be perfect in just the right place. Unfortunately, this process is very slow. You don't set the next one until you are absolutely sure that it is in the right spot. With this method, I quickly realized that this writing style took forever and I would have to find a new way or I would never finish any of my writing.

First Draft
This time, I did it completely differently, writing the book, start to finish, all 24 chapters. Each one was polished for clarity. (or who knows after how many drafts? I stopped counting after 15 ) Reading the whole book, I found certain scenes which jumped out at me, so I fixed them. Of course, I shared this book with friends and got their opinions.

In the second reading, I mapped out the plot's cause and effect in each chapter, character motivation, and the major conflicts in the story. Also, I polished characters’ descriptions, scene action, setting and metaphor. When I was satisfied with these things, then I printed a whole new version of the book.

Second Draft
Once the big things were done, then I focused on the little things: editing the overuse of linking words, and phrases. Did I tell more than show? I got more detailed, tried to use a variety of linking words and remove weak verbs.

Okay , now I had a new draft which I began reading for each character’s dialogue. Did the characters have consistent voices? Voice tags?  Then, I looked at varying the sentence structure especially the beginnings of paragraphs. Also, what about the use of foreign languages? Did I get feedback from native speakers in those languages?

Third Draft
When I didn't know what to fix next, I got a story editor to read the book. With her feedback, I brainstormed and added scenes which helped to shape characters and the overall plot structure. There were no bad ideas at this stage. I used my favorites to flesh out the story. A final group of readers took a crack at the story. Reading for pleasure, they gave me notes on any awkward sentences and their reactions to my changes.

Fourth/Final Draft
Now, in the last two weeks, I have been re-reading my book again and finding a few minor nits, plus I wanted to add a short scene, fix my Czech and then get my line editor to examine it. She will be the fresh set of eyes to fix anything else I might have missed. Then I will let the book go and submit it to publishers.

As I page through my notebook, I smile. There are other stories waiting to be written.

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