AMO on Writing: Thoughts on later Stage Revision

Later Stage Revision? For some folks: bleh.  For me, a continuously surprising set of interactions with a draft. It’s alive.  Later stage revision is marked by confidence, terror, skills, commitment, uncertainty, practice, inspiration, boredom, feedback, deadlines, the state of the draft, sleep and coffee. Among other things.  Sound familiar?  I can only share my own experience; yours will be a different drama, but we writers may be comforted and stimulated by hearing about each other’s experiences.  So I’m offering some thoughts about one phrase in that list, the “state of the draft.” I’m not talking California here.

When I finally have enough material for a biggish project, I look at its parts—sections, chapters, episodes, even fragments. I make a card for each. Then I list the “state” of being” for that chunk, the condition of that part. Here are my initial considerations:

  • Is it done, and I’m feeling good and want to move on? Noted.
  • Is it in the tinkering-with-sentences stage.  Noted.
  • Is it in need of total reordering, restructuring, tonal clarification? Noted.
  • Is it in need of workshop? Big notation!
  • Do I want someone to affirm me ’cuz I’m scared or uncertain. Noted

There are many more ways to use the card, but I start there. The state.  With a little honest practice, most of us know how to categorize our work.  Yes, I am almost certainly making a guess, but that guess forces me toward rough assessment. Having to do self-assessment doesn’t mean I’m right; instead it makes explicit some unexpressed information about where I suspect I am with this part—it reflects my state of mind about that section, and thus, gives me some direction as to my focus for revision. It also reduces my uncertainty.  AND it’s pretty cool to see all those cards spread out on a table or floor because they offer a larger visual image for the whole. Sometimes, that allows me to see steps, to build efficiency: what seemed overwhelming now has steps I can order.

There’s much more to this “state of draft” notation process, but that offers a start.  If you are interested in this and other strategies for addressing deep revision in your writing project, consider joining me for the Deep Revision Retreat at Interlochen’s College of Creative Arts. That’s a state of being you can use to complete a project.