Thursday, March 29, 2012

First draft from heart/rewrites from head

I was watching "Finding Forrester" the other night with Sean Connery (a recluse author). I've seen it before but it's been a long time since I last saw the movie. I missed the beginning so don't remember how Jamal (the black boy) comes to find Forrester (Sean Connery). The scene where they are typing away on those old manual typewriters had a very poignant line in it and so I thought I'd share my thoughts about that.

Sean is just typing away and Jamal (don't remember the actor's name) is kind of sitting at his typewriter really not sure what to do with himself at this point. So Sean goes, "You write your draft from the heart and your rewrites from the head." He also goes on to say your first draft is for getting the words down on paper, and your rewrites are for making it better, stronger (this isn't the direct quote but something similar to what he said).

This is pretty much how I've learned to write my stories, and so this is a philosophy that I do believe in. The object when you first start writing is to get the story down. When you go back through it and read, edit, mark it, et cetera, you make it stronger, you make it correct.

A lot of folks try to edit while they write, which I'm sure works for some folks but in the long run, it will save you a lot of headaches if you don't think about what you are writing and just let the words flow and get them down on paper. When you edit while writing, you tend to spend so much time making it right and every time you change something in one place you end up having to make changes in several places. Personally, I couldn't do that, especially if the story already has a strong hold in my mind and it just needs to be told.

I know some authors who are constantly working on writing the first draft and editing a different manuscript. They have noted that this requires both sides of their brains so it is a break from one to do the other. This is very true as writing the story allows your creative side to come out and play and editing requires you to think and be logical and follow the rules of the language and writing.

My WIP should be almost completely written by now but I have too many unknowns and they require a lot of research before I really can write the story. I'm sure once I have a chance to do some very serious research (I'd love to travel and explore and have first hand experience but that isn't going to happen for a long while, so my research will be online for the time being) and the unknowns are dealt with that the characters will speak to me more strongly and they will tell their story.

So the next time you have a story that is just wanting to get told, remember to draft from your heart (write that story and not worry about the semantics of it) and then rewrite from your head.

Keep writing. See you all in the postings - E :)


Carol Baldwin said...

Good way of putting it. I'll remember this! Thanks.

Rena said...

Good luck on your WIP.

BTW, Elysabeth -- I tagged you for an award on my blog today. :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Elysabeth. Great post. I am one of those writers who edits as she goes. I don't mean to do it. It just happens. I'm trying to break myself of this, because for me it is not a good thing to be doing.

elysabeth said...

Carol, This is probably something you've heard many times but I think at the time I was watching the movie it was something I needed to hear or be reminded of.

Rena, Thanks - I need to do a lot of research since my WIP is a time dated specific story and I need to make sure I don't mention anything post 1980 and that I stay in the right timeframe. I'll be contacting you this week for your guest appearance next month here. I'm not sure if I want you to do an article or if I'm doing an interview. Will let you know.

Susanna, I've not written anything editing as I go but then again I write short stories and they have to be done in a quick manner most of the time. I hope you can get to that point of writing the story first and then worry about the edits and rewrites later.

Thank you all for stopping by and commenting. I was beginning to think no one but Susanne was really reading my blog. See you all in the postings - E :)

Carol Baldwin said...

I added it to a wiki I am creating for a writing class. Thanks, Carol

elysabeth said...

Very cool, Carol. Hope your students follow their hearts and get their first draft written with ease. Speaking of first drafts, how's your wip, Half Truths, coming along? I know you are dong quite a bit of research for it (something I almost dread doing for Imogene's story but is needed before I can really write the first draft) and was just wondering where you are with the writing. - E :)