There are several steps to writing, but one of the first steps (not necessarily THE first step) is to scratch out a rough draft. It can be great fun, to let my imaginary imagination wings take flight and show me a new world filled with new people. Occasionally, the rough draft can also be a real headache, as words simply refuse to come to describe what my mind sees, or – even worse – my mind isn’t focused and therefore doesn’t see anything.
But the fun outweighs the headache (or I wouldn’t continue writing). It’s easy to see your progress with a rough draft, because your word count goes UP. Even if you have a bad day, by the end of a week, your word count will most likely be greater than what you started the week with. You feel like you’ve accomplished something.
For me, the 2nd draft is where I add in every piece of description, explanation, background and all the modifiers I can think of, just to make sure everything is understandable to the reader. My word count can double from rough and 2nd drafts, so obviously, I’m doing something.
Then come the further rewrites. I generally do a 3rd and 4th rewrite, and then a polish. Occasionally, I do a few more rewrites. I have one story in its 9th or 10th rewrite, and I’m still not happy with it.
Rewrite is not as much fun as roughing, but it seldom drags badly, either. It’s during these rewrites that I check for redundancies, passive verbs, -ing verbs, adverbs and that my pronouns refer to the correct antecedents. I might lengthen or shorten sentences, rearrange paragraphs. I might delete words, phrases, sentences, or change a 6-word phrase to a 2-word phrase.
It’s harder to keep track of your progress when your word count is going down. If you try to judge your progress by the difference in word count, it might take you days to cut a thousand words. That always made me feel stuck. So I started counting the number of words in the section I rewrote that day. I probably went through a section of 1200 words or more to wind up with 1000 words by the end, but each one of those words were carefully considered, so I have done a bit of work.
As you can see, 1 rough draft needs several rewrites. Most of my time as a writer is spent re-writing. I try to balance this out by working on 3 projects at a time; 1 short story rewrite, 1 novel rewrite, and 1 rough draft. Somehow, this past week, I have found myself doing 3 re-write projects, with no time left in my day for the rough draft. I suppose it was bound to happen, but it still leaves me feeling kind of ‘stuck’. Re-writing doesn’t set my imagination completely free. But it does still use it, so I do get some pleasure from re-writing. And since my short stories generally range around 5000 words, I should soon be done with that project, and can then return to that rough I was working on.
I won’t be ‘stuck’ in re-write much longer.