Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Resolve, write, revise

A particularly interesting piece (for the practising writer as well as reader) in the Boston Globe on how technology and our ideas about writing and expression have changed writers' approach to the business of drafting and revision.

I draft, I revise, I revise again. To my mind, the process is like transforming a sketch into a painting: laying down rough marks, and redrawing and colouring until the final work emerges.

Dickens, writing from number to number in serialisation, had an opportunity to correct the page-proofs based on his hand-written pages but could never return to drafting and reviewing his work. Although later in his career he relied on more notes and memoranda to plan, there remains a directness and unrehearsed liveliness about his writing that our careful processes of word-processing and editing cannot capture.

This may be what we lose by revision, but for the mystery writer, revision is also the power to refine the mystery even as the first draft becomes a rougher series of notes and approximations, an exploration of the idea rather than its final expression.