Drafting – (Re)drafting
I’ve developed an approach to drafting the novel that on its face probably seems overwhelmingly labor-intensive, but I’ve found that it really helps me to maintain momentum in the writing. One element of the approach is taken from Pam Painter’s redrafting advice, which is to literally rewrite each word of the story–literally recommit to each word–by starting with a blank file rather than simply editing or cutting and pasting in the previous draft file. She went so far in class as to ask a student with a laptop to find the file of their story and delete it, so that all they have left is the paper copy. I’ve found this advice, once you’re used to it, to be tremendously helpful. It’s one thing to type out a flabby passage once, but you’ll almost never do it twice.
The second element of my (re)drafting approach happened quite by accident. Really the only consistent time I’ve had to devote to writing in the past few years has been my half-hour ride into and out of Boston each day. In the period before I had a laptop, I talked myself out of writing on the train because I didn’t have a computer available to me. I eventually came to see this as another of the excuses I use not to work on my writing, so I got a legal pad and a pen, and started on the current redrafting effort by hand. I’d do the handwritten draft on the train during the week, and squeeze in some time on the weekend to type through what I’d written out. Eventually, I got a laptop (and God bless the people at Apple for developing one that doesn’t have to be booted up every time you open it), but by that time, I’d discovered something interesting–making two passes, one by hand and one by keyboard, had some really unique benefits.
For one, I found myself writing myself into a corner less and less. If I wasn’t sure what to do next with the story, I could put down the legal pad, pick up the computer, and run up to the sticking point again. I’d very often have figured out the next move by the time I got there the second time. I also found that it was really helpful to be mentally in two places in the story at the same time. Often it lead to connections between story threads that I doubt I’d have developed otherwise. And I am certainly more economical when writing as opposed to typing, so the writing tended to be less flabby. So while I can now type as much as I want on the train, I have stuck to this double-drafting approach. It may not be the fastest approach, but it has a momentum I’ve not felt with either handwriting or typing alone.