Friday, May 28, 2010

Process, Revision, Craft

A lot of writers speak or write about the craft of writing. When I first made the decision that I wanted to write books, I really had no clue about what this meant. As I've gone through the process of writing a manuscript, I think I've started to truly understand it.

The idea of craft isn't exclusive to writing. As a graphic designer, the term craft is used extensively to describe what we do. In short, it's a term that encompasses the entire creative process, revision and craftsmanship of a piece of graphic design. The same holds true for writing. When you first begin a novel, short story, essay, etc. You start with the seed or spark of an idea. This is the beginning of the creative process. As you type feverishly on your laptop or place pen to paper, this is the "creative" portion of the craft of writing. I don't want to gloss over this portion, but in my experience, it's the easiest part of what we do. This is the part where we, as writers, have the most fun. This is the explosive, orgasmic, exciting part of writing. It's the new story that you can't repress. It wants to break the chains of your brain and blast through your fingertips into written words and paragraphs until it is spent, lying there on double-spaced pages. In a sense, it's the beginning of a new relationship. It's exciting, fun and when things are clicking and the story is flowing its like having sex for the first time.

The second part of the craft of writing is the revision process. Here's where things start to fall apart for many writers. The revision process, for me, is a two-part procedure. One part is continuity and voice. The second part is grammar. Both parts can happen simultaneously, but sometimes it's relatively hard to concentrate on the grammar aspect of revision if you're going through the continuity and voice details. However, as you're reading through your story for continuity and voice, if you find grammatical errors, go ahead and correct them, but don't get bogged down by them. It's very easy to be reading along and find a sentence that has two independent clauses in it, insert a semi-colon and the next thing you know you're scouring the page with a fine-tooth comb trying to find more errors. At this point, you've lost the ability to see the bigger picture, which is what continuity and voice are all about.

I'm sure that many writers have their own solutions to this problem. My own personal experience has taught me that I have to do one of two things: Let someone else read the manuscript for continuity and voice or make a vow not to correct grammatical errors. I've found that having a trusted friend or loved one read your work can be extremely helpful. Keep in mind that you have to be open to suggestion and criticism. My wife is generally my first reader and it took me awhile to really start listening to what she had to say. After all, this was my work, my vision, my creative process, how dare she... but... nine times out of ten, she was right. It's of paramount importance that, as a writer, you be able to step back from your work and view it objectively.

The third part of the creative process is kind of a sub-process within the scope of revision. This is what I like to call the craftsmanship portion of writing. Please understand, I'm using craftsmanship in a neuter-gender manner because the word "craftsmanship" is easily recognized as the process of doing everything in your power to provide the best possible product regardless of whether you are male or female. Craftsmanship is probably one of the most important aspects of writing aside from the initial creative explosion and subsequent storytelling. I believe that craftsmanship in writing is what sets the published author apart from the non-published author. During the revision process, this means that as a writer, you are expending every effort to ensure that each sentence is not only grammatically correct, but also that your characters maintain credibility and sustain their individual voices and that the story has continuity throughout. By doing this, you'll ensure that your reader's are able to suspend disbelief and you'll make your editor happy because it will take a load of work off of their shoulders.

My firm belief is that the act of being published isn't based on random luck. I think that there is some luck involved, but I believe that it's actually 99% craftsmanship and 1% luck. Of course, we're building this on a foundation that consists of a good story with well-developed characters. I'm hopeful that as my writing career progresses that this theory will prove to be true. I'll let you know as soon as I'm published.

That's all for now.

No comments:

Post a Comment