The Writer’s Craft #46 – Whittling Away
Desirina Boskovich is a graduate of the Clarion class of 2007. As a freelance writer, she specializes in weird, fantastic and unlikely things, both true and imaginary. Her work has appeared in Clarkesworld Magazine, Realms of Fantasy, Last Drink Bird Head, Fantasy Magazine, Lightspeed Magazine, and The Way of the Wizard. She lives in Springfield, Missouri. Find her online at crackingdes.livejournal.com.
For some writers I know, a rough draft is where they sketch the outlines of their scenes — the basics of who said and did what, with maybe a hint of motivation and a glimpse of surroundings. Then, on future drafts, they fill in the details, adding richness and texture to the environment through sensory imagery, and expanding the emotional subtext of the character’s actions and interactions.
I think this is actually a pretty good way to go about it — but unfortunately that’s just not my style.
For me, the process of getting into the story requires that I envision all aspects of the environment and detail every thought that motivates the character. My rough drafts are typically flabby, wordy and excessively descriptive, with long torturous asides. When I look back at a rough draft, my first thought is often: “Really? You just said the same thing three different ways.”
This also means that later drafts are where I whittle it all away.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot over the past few months, as I work through the final draft of a novel. Most of what I’ve been doing is cutting. Whole paragraphs and dozens of sentences have fallen by the wayside. Sometimes whole pages. There are sections I’ve trimmed down to less than half of their former selves.
Unlike during early drafting, when a good day ends with five more pages, now a good day ends with five fewer pages. Sometimes I wonder if I’m chopping too much, if the paragraphs on the cutting room floor actually held some useful insights or valuable background. After all, that wordy style works for some writers. Then I look back at those old drafts, and I think: “No. Keep cutting.”
How about you? Do your rough drafts start out “bare bones” and accrue details, or the other way around?