Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Radical Revisions

I promised to touch on some highlights of Lauren Groff's seminar, "After the First Draft." The three-hour seminar on Sunday was sponsored by the Writing Room and the Emrys Foundation. Lauren is the author of the NY Times Bestselling novel The Monsters of Templeton and the prize winning short story collection, Delicate Edible Birds. But you knew that, right?

Lauren had some terrific things to say about revision-- re-visioning-- your draft.

For example, she recommends several "radical ideas" for seeing your work in a new light. From her lecture and handout:

--Turn over your finished stories and start anew. "This is what I do with at least two drafts of everything. Believe it or not, it makes your work stronger, and teaches you to not be attached to the individual text. If there is a metaphor or moment in your first draft that you love and want to hold on to, it may not be necessary if you don’t remember to put it into the second draft. Plus, you can go through the first and cannibalize it for the good stuff."
--Get out the scissors, and cut each paragraph out. "Put the paragraphs in order on the floor, so that you can see your work as a whole, and then shift them around, so that they’re in the proper order. Flannery O’Connor used to do this."
--"If you write by computer, on the draft that has all structural and character questions addressed (the draft in which you’re only concentrating on language), print it out and rewrite by hand, line by line, bearing down hard on your language. Then rewrite back onto your computer.

Sound time consuming? Lauren says these methods save her tremendous amounts of time, by forcing her to see her drafts in a fresh way, and letting the story that wants to be told reveal itself.

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