Today I’m hosting a guest post by author Katharine Coldiron, the author of women’s fiction “After Gardens”. The author is sharing her editing process with us.
Most of the best writers I know who’ve shared their writing process seem to be quick drafters and painstaking revisers. Writing is rewriting, they say, and my unscientific study has told me that writers who enjoy revising are going to keep writing in the long term instead of giving up in frustration. Writers who dash off something that’s immediately perfect are so rare as to be nonexistent; most need heavy editing to be any good at all.
Which kind of leaves me out in the cold. Although I’ve gotten used to it over the years, I hate revising. It depletes me, makes me depressed that I couldn’t write it ideally the first time. (Perfectionist much?) Instead of writing and revising the way a normal writer should, I’ve created an entire writing process with the explicit aim that I spend as little time revising as possible.
Here are my seven steps:
- I draft by hand. I used to be quite precious about which notebooks and which pens I’d use, but I’m more indifferent to all that now. As long as the paper’s generous and the pen writes smoothly, I’m good.
- As I’m writing, I correct the draft by hand. The arrangement of words in one sentence affects the next sentence, and vice versa, so I’m keeping around three sentences in my head at once. Also, sometimes I feel like two or more synonyms might work, so I’ll write all three in just in case. My drafts are a mess! Sometimes I’ll X through whole paragraphs and start over. It feels safer to do this by hand, because the paragraph isn’t lost forever to the delete key.
- I type the draft into my computer, correcting as I go. Sometimes the paragraphs I Xed out in the previous step are better than I thought. Sometimes I have a “what was I thinking?” moment and leave out whole pages of drafted material.
- I set the project aside for a bit—at least a week, preferably a month. I’m too deeply inside the story right after drafting to even comprehend what a non-me reader will make of it.
- I come back to the project and check carefully for revisions. Because of steps two and three, this step is like a third revision rather than a first. Sometimes this step involves physically cutting and taping paragraphs together!
- I give the story to my husband. He’ll be the first to tell you that he’s awful at feedback—most commonly, he returns to me and says “It’s good,” and that’s about all—but if I press him, he can tell me things about the story I can’t see for myself. It’s important that he’s my first reader, because he knows me well enough to know what I was probably thinking vs. how it came out on the page.
- I go through the draft once more to correct for what my husband has explained, if anything, and to catch any other issues. If it doesn’t seem finished, for any reason, I’ll go back to step 4.
Then, it’s ready for prime time. And it was relatively painless! All I had to do was come up with a writing process that no normal writer would ever use.
A bit of advice to close us out: don’t be like me. Learn to love revision. It’s the best way to sustain a writing life, and it’s the most effective way to make finished writing better than a first draft ever could be.
About the Book
Title: After Gardens
Author: Katharine Coldiron
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Maya, a weekend at a hot springs with her boisterous friend Rhondey is just what she needs to move forward after her divorce. For Rhondey, it’s an opportunity to help Maya cut loose a little, shed some of her inhibitions. Maya doesn’t see the need to shed anything, and she’s not looking for a teacher. But the more Maya clings to her privacy, the more difficult it is for her to recognize her true teachers…and the right moment to step free.
Katharine Coldiron’s work has appeared in Ms., the Times Literary Supplement, the Rumpus, the Manifest-Station, horoscope.com, and many other places.
Find Katharine at kcoldiron.com or on Twitter @ferrifrigida.