Many of my students admit to doing this: sitting down at the computer at 10.15 the night before an essay is due, turning on the computer, typing it out, and printing it up. Wait, no. They don't print it up because they don't have a printer at home, so in the morning, they save the essay on a memory stick, rush to the library between classes, and stand in line to print. The printer breaks, technicians are called, mayhem ensues. Finally, 15 minutes after class starts, they dash to class with their one draft essay in hand, flustered and upset, and sit down, tardy (I actually count tardies. Call me old school or something worse).
Anyway, the point here is that the writing process is nil. Idea to page, pretty much what I do here with these blogs. But you could say that because I blog every day, some kind of process has taken over. Some kind of fluency is in place. But with the one dash wonders of the 11.15 essay? Not so much.
As I tell them--over and over again--the essay on the computer screen only looks good because of the Times New Roman font. It looks great later with the ink jet printing, stark white paper, and centered title. But what's in the essay is likely horrible. One draft? Yes, the big suck-o-rama.
Trust me, I know. Yesterday, at the behest of my agent, I completed draft 415 on a novel I began in 2003. This novel just about made it through round one of editor submissions, but we decided to pull it back and make some very interesting changes to the story.
What the editors who read it then and the editors who will read it starting next week don't know is that this novel has changed and morphed and turned into something it was never, ever before. Two characters disappeared. One character came back at the end. One character lost an addiction. The other an illness. One character's motivations are much more specific now.
The dad still dies, of course. The mother still finds another love, but now, she doesn't get married again--that whole half of the book is somewhere on my C drive, chopped off last summer.
One character still has a baby. That has to happen, too.
But along the way--I would tell my students--I worked syntax and punctuation and even grammar. I did the smaller things that still count, the smaller things that I often can't even see until I look 415 times. Hello! I'm an English teacher, and I missed that comma. Yes, yes. I did.
I'm not sure that this novel will see draft 416. After revising it 415 times, I might have to say that this story has done all it can do. It might be time to pack it in and move onto another novel, one that has only been drafted 125 times.
Causes Jessica Inclán Supports
Women for Women International Goodwill Industries Lindsey Wildlife Museum Freecycle.org