I’m not sure what I’ve got with my latest draft.
Is it a real story or nothing more than two hundred pages of soggy swamp?
Maybe it’s a little of both.
Some passages read beautifully while others wander off into mangrove thickets.
I’ve reached the point where I’m making notes to re-title chapters, hoping to focus on the theme of each chapter more strongly.
And, of course, I’m discovering that I'll need to revise many passages extensively in order to uncover themes which aren’t apparent on a first reading.
It’s that stage where–nearly halfway through–I can’t see past the thick branches and Spanish moss dangling in front of my face or the muddy water swirling around my feet.
But that’s ok.
This is where I’m supposed to be right now.
And, looking over my shoulder (while swatting mosquitoes), I can glimpse how far I’ve come since writing the initial draft by hand, then typing that draft into the computer, then revising the draft on the computer again... and again.
Only a week ago I printed out another draft to review and made notes by hand before re-typing the draft into the computer and doing another revision.
It's interesting how this process of back-and-forth--writing a draft by hand, typing it into the computer, re-reading a hard copy of the draft and revising it by hand, then keyboarding the changes into the computer--may seem like unnecessary drudgery at times.
But this process offers insights into the sentences and structure (and themes) of the draft that I might overlook if I revise the draft exclusively on the computer.
That’s not to say I won’t revise on the computer (yet again!) after this draft is done.
But right now it’s important to wade through the manuscript this way, especially when I take the time to slow down and read it with a pen in my hand.
The manuscript feels different when I hold it in my hands.
It's not yet a book, but, holding the pages in my hands, I can sense what it might become.
And on days when I lose my way in the mangrove thicket, it’s that feeling which sustains me.
What about you–how do you wade through the muddy water of revisions? Do you prefer revising on a computer or by hand? Do you go back and forth between the two? What’s the difference? And what do you gain by doing revisions one way rather than another?
Let us know when you get a chance.
For more on revising by hand versus computers, visit: