Hello! And a very Merry Christmas to you! Maureen Pratt here for my monthly blog which, this year, just happens to fall a couple of days after one of my favorite holidays – you guessed it – Christmas!
What I especially love about Christmas is that we get to bring out many of our dearly-held traditions. Whether it’s in baking, decorating, music, or Scripture study "what was old is new again" as we celebrate the Season.
How does this relate to writing?
Well, it reminds me that sometimes I miss "old" traditions of the authorial kind. Writing long-hand, for example, and seeing how, as thoughts poured out on paper, the penmanship changed. Not that I’d like to go back and write an entire manuscript in that manner. Arthritis, you know. But the process is certainly worth revisiting.
Another tradition or, rather, several with one purpose, was how we edited. Cutting and pasting, anyone? Erasing so much that a puffy pile of erasure residue wafted around you when you stood up from your desk? Or, that "old" stand-by – the smelly, sleek white liquid that dried to a crackle and gave any manuscript that "patchwork" look. "Brilliance in a bottle," of sorts, because you had to be very sure of how and where you used it -It could get messy, and once you covered over something, you probablycouldn’t recover it intact, if it was a major revision.
Yes, nowadays, we have computer programs that automatically back-up our drafts to the "cloud," so we will never lose a word. We have the ease of technology in erasing whatever we want and, for that matter, moving whole lines of text from one place to another. My! Have times changed!
But what hasn’t changed is the attention truly effective editing and revising require. "Back in the day" when revising could be physically painful (I did my MFA in Playwriting pre-computer, and well remember the agony of having to re-type page after page!), I and, I’m sure, many authors, spent lots of time thinking over just what needed to be altered once Draft 1 was finished. This thought process not only saved finger muscles, it also helped deepen and strengthen work; truly, the more levels you allow yourself to think through, the more full-formed the final product will be.
How do you get there without going back in time to write in a more "primitive" manner?
One very solid way of letting the editing process unfold deeply is to give it time. Finish a scene or a draft, and then let it sit for days, or even weeks. Then, re-read what you’ve written and maybe even let it sit longer before you tackle the rewrite/revision. Yes, give it time.
Another helpful tool is one I learned in grad school. After you’ve finished a scene or a chapter, make a list of questions that relate to what just happened. These questions can be about the plot, character development, scene, or anything that you wonder about (Is it all clear? Is there something that doesn’t need to be there? Is the character unfolding, or too well-developed too early on?)
Third, to let our work "go deeper," we ourselves must grow, too. It cannot be all about the writing, but rather the life you lead as you write should inform what you write about and how you write it. So, let your life happen, be active, be curious about the world, and, most importantly, pray for greater wisdom and insight so that that light may shine through the words you set to text.
It’s way too much of a stretch to say that I’m going to dig out my typewriter this year, and there won’t be a bottle of white erasing fluid on my desk. But as we approach a brand new year of writing, I’m going to try to hold onto one outgrowth of the traditions gone by. That is, I’m going to really think before I delete, and dig deeper than ever before when I edit and revise.
What a wonderful journey that will be! And, I hope that you, too, will find your writing journey as fulfilling and graced as can be throughout the New Year and beyond!
Joy and peace,