Writing: The Difference between being Finished and being Done

I don’t know how other people write. That makes sense. I’m not other people.

But I do wonder sometimes the various methodologies (or lack thereof in my case) applied to craft. I was particularly thinking about first drafts recently, and I realize that I am a “run and gun” offense on my first draft. I don’t slow down for anything, not even vocabulary or grammar.

What exactly does that mean? My first draft is focused on plot, and characters – but, if I had to pick one of those, it would be plot. I’m trying to find the common thread that’s going to weave this story together from start to finish, and since I’m trying to discover what it is, I rarely have patience to write it the right way the first time through. Just get it finished!

So a typical writing session will be me whipping through several chapters or mowing down several scenes just to better flesh out the story.

But the editing process begins at the very next writing session. When I start re-reading my machine-gun literature, it becomes painfully obvious that it’s mediocre writing at best. It needs a lot of work and refinement. As I re-read, I begin to parse out the phrases better, I begin to substitute more interesting vocabulary, and I begin to give characters the flair they should have but don’t yet have.

Once I reach the end of my last session, I’ll machine-gun it some more, extending the story out as far as I can at the moment.

Once the first draft is complete, the refinement begins. It’s a matter of looking at each and every sentence. Is the vocabulary solid and interesting? Do the sentences flow together well? Do the details of the characters match what has been said about them previously? Are there huge plot holes which need to be filled with a whole new writing session worth of material?

Once the second draft is done, I start the third draft, fixing the myriad of items which I missed on the second draft. The language begins to get crisper and the content flows smoothly.

By that point, it is “finished” but  not “done.” I see these as two distinct different things. Finished to me means that the story I want to tell is complete. “Done” isn’t accomplished until it’s actually sent for publishing which could be several months to a year after it is “finished.”  The “doneness” of a project is accomplished over a long period of time, working on nagging issues, improvement in vocabulary, fixing typos, and concentrating on making the “done” manuscript the absolute best that it can be.

That’s how I look at my writing process.

What about you?

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