Checkmate (Revision)

There are several metaphors for writing a first draft. Most of them are rather along the lines of the quote:

‘Writing is easy. You just open a vein and bleed.’

This and many other similar metaphors are certainly apropos of my writing process. For a first draft I may do a certain amount of outlining, some research, but I usually try to drop as much of the story onto the page as early as possible before it starts to fade.

Revision is another story entirely. It requires careful thought, planning, more research, and generally being able to think several steps ahead. Revision reminds me a bit of chess because of this. Each change, whether adding details or removing unnecessary wordage, affects other details further down the narrative. Changing a character’s reaction to another in chapter 4 alters the conversation between the two of them in chapter 8, which is the turning point of a particular plot point. This changes how the story itself is resolved and so on. If one isn’t careful, moving a bit of the story around can unravel the entire narrative, and leave you with mess. Each move must be carefully planned to avoid this metaphorical checkmate.

This process can be exciting occasionally, but it is far more often tedious checking and re-checking of each part against all the others. Even a short story revision can get a bit boring after the first run-through, no matter how engaging the prose is.


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