November 18, 2013

After the first draft

Dear M,

We think our first draft is everything. We tell ourselves that if we get there, if we just get there, dammit.

What happens after the first draft? Everything. First Draft is a release of all pent-up feelings. All emotions we wanted to get rid of. All words we ever wanted to say. The romance, the rage, the fear, the agony, the ecstasy - getting it all out of the way. First Draft is delivered without thinking. It's all about letting the heart find its way, while the brain waits by the side for its turn.

After the first draft, the brain takes over (or has to). The heart has had its say. Now it is time to see if it is any good, if it can be salvaged, if it can be chipped and patched and broken into pieces and glued together. Time to snip the meaningless banter off the text. In other words, a major chunk of the work happens after the First Draft.

The author of the work has myopia (or something) - he/she cannot see the manuscript from the outside. He/she still thinks it is the best work, the best and only way the story can be told. But this, in most cases, is not true. There will be a lot of modifications that can be done, so that the story is presented in a beautiful way.

The best thing to do after the First Draft is to take a break. Typically three to four weeks (or upto six weeks). Just enough to forget all that you have written. The break would also help to brace yourself for what is coming. It is essential to approach the story afresh. Almost like a new reader, though the author can never be a new reader of his/her own work. Things - errors, issues, mismatches, discrepancies of all kinds - begin to pop out of the story. The same old story that you thought was an embodiment of perfection!

Thus begins some back-breaking work. And the end of this modification? No one knows. It could go on and on. There would always be one sentence to slice or shorten or rephrase, or a verb to change to something more appropriate. After we do about a million rounds ourselves, comes the editor's level of editing. Harsh, merciless snipping, rewriting. About ten percent of the text is assumed to be removed during editing. Because nothing short of perfect can dream of getting published.


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