Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Revising: Productive or Procrastination

After catching up on chores and errands, I’m finally getting back into my 1,000 words a day routine: wake up, put on the coffee, and get my ass in the chair. But today I found myself doing something I seldom do, especially so early on in the novel: rewriting.

I have always been a draft person. Step one: write the piece all the way through. Step two: go back and make revisions. Step three: repeat step two until satisfied. I’ve been told many times that creating a formal outline would help eliminate the numerous drafts I insist on writing, but I never really took to it. I have my system. It works for me.

But this morning I found myself printing off the first fifty pages and reading it in a coffee shop all morning, jotting down notes, crossing out paragraphs and replacing them with new ones, littering the pages with arrows and grammar codes. It took about two hours and afterwards, I had used up all my energy and hadn’t increased my word count.

I have talked with plenty of authors who revise along the way, and claim how well it works for them, but I am still skeptical. The question is, when do we find ourselves wanting to revise? If it’s part of your routine, write a new chapter and revise the one from the day before, I can see how it can be effective. But today, I knew that the next scene I need to write is a difficult, not yet fully developed police procedural scene that I find really boring to write and therefore will surely turn out boring to read. The revisions this morning served as procrastination, knowing that I have to work on the book but not wanting to tackle the difficult chapter ahead.

While the revisions needed to be made, and it has given me motivation to push the story forward tomorrow, how much of today was wasted? Will I eliminate drafts because of the editing I did today? We’ll see.

Authors, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Is revising along the way productive or just procrastination?

2 comments:

Barry said...

Dana, congrats on the blog, and thanks for the link. Wish I could have joined you at Bcon, but I've got a Nov 30 deadline and a lot still to write...

Is revising while you write procrastination? It depends on your style and you have to find what works for you. I revise constantly while I write, but have learned which sections I can't fine tune until more of the book is written, and those get left alone until I have a firmer idea of their content.

Wandering the blogosphere, though... now that is definitely procrastination. Okay, back to the manuscript...

Cheers,
Barry

Darwyn Jones said...

My thoughts - sometimes revising is procrastination, sometimes it just needs to be done. It depends on my mindset and whether I'm being honest with myself. Today I kept momentum and wrote new words only, knowing that they were going to require some rather heavy-handed editing. So, would I have saved time in the future by editing them as I go? Who knows. Does it matter as long as I meet my deadline? (Oh wait...)