Pages

Monday, March 2, 2009

Clearing the Decks, Pros and Cons

Clearing the decks? All writers are sailors? No, not exactly. The metaphor is simply this: if you don't clear the decks from time to time you won't be able to see where you're sailing. And, if you can't see, you're liable to run aground.

Why the metaphor now? Because I've finished my first rough draft and am now "clearing the decks" before diving into the next draft (okay, enough sailing, water metaphors!). Why? Because if the decks are blocked by half-finished short stories or articles with an upcoming, looming due date then how can I turn all my attention to the rewrite? If my notes on the rewrite are scattered in this file and this other file, how can I be certain I'll find and more importantly USE my extensive rewriting notes?

So, there's been a flurry of organization and finishing up and submitting short projects. This helps me in another way--I've found that having writing "out there" submitted (and occasionally published, yay!) supports my rewriting. It's a reminder that finishing a writing project is possible. It's a boost to know I'm continuing to pursue my passion, any way I can. And, as the Muse on Inspired Day by Day mentioned in her post on How to Make Things Happen: Visualize, it's a positive visualization of success.

A pitfall--or reef to get hung up on (back to sailing images): clearing and organizing and "getting ready" forever or for so long you've stepped out of the current w.i.p. too far. So far all the energy goes out of the project. It can end up as a "drawer novel." Ugh. I set a time limit for the clearing up for this reason.

Do you go from one draft into another? If so, why? Or do you have a period in between? What works best for you in the long, long run of writing a major work?

14 comments:

Jim Murdoch said...

I've never really got the whole 'draft' thing. Each of my completed novels was written the same way. There was only one draft, a basic story that I built up, grafted bits on, chipped bits off. I never stopped and began again until this fifth novel. This time the whole approach was wrong, wrong characters, wrong tone, but the concept was strong so I recast the book and began again. That worked better. But the voice was wrong so I rewrote the whole thing changing the tense from third to first. And now I'm stuck. So I'm working on other things and I'll go back to it some time in the future and see if I can continue it.

Dave King said...

I, like Jim, have always tended towards the single draft for longer works, chipping bit off and grafting bits on. For shorter stuff - poems etc - I may leave it lying around, finished or unfinished, for yonks before suddenly picking it up and finishing it, or I may go from draft to draft. If I do the latter I tend to draft alternately in longhand and on the computer. Paintings, I tend to leave around, touching in bits here and there as the thought occurs - which might or might not be of interest.

The Muse said...

Love the metaphor (you know I love anything that has to do with water and boating)! I know you will get your re-writes all gathered and completed. As always, thanks for the mention. It is so true, Visualization works!

I Hope you have a productive week.

Take care!

Conda V. Douglas said...

Jim, I hope you get unstuck--I know how frustrating it can be...

And I love seeing your (to me) different way of working.

Kathy McIntosh said...

Hmmm. My issue is that I take way too much time clearing the decks (and my desk needs swabbing not just clearing) that I never get to the main project.
I guess if like yours, it's a time before a major project, it's a great idea.
I tend to do the little things and postpone the biggees. Like my final draft of the current novel. Now I'm off to learn from the Muse about visualization. Can I visualize that my blog post is done?

Conda V. Douglas said...

Dave--first of all, I adore the word yonks. It's not in American slang, so I don't hear it often! And I agree with you, the shorter stuff is easier to either tinker with or go draft to draft.

By the way, always enjoy seeing your paintings on Pics and Poems.

Conda V. Douglas said...

Thanks, Muse for the great wishes and visualization! And your invigorating posts!

Conda V. Douglas said...

Kathy, dear friend, yes, I've run aground on the reef of "clearing" forever...easy to do. But you (and your blog) help pull me back on course!

Helen Ginger said...

I definitely have to have a quiet time in between. Sort of a time to clear the chatter so that I have a clean slate to start again. And I always set aside the manuscript for a while before starting edits. I feel that gives me a fresh perspective on it.

Conda V. Douglas said...

Good point about needing to set it aside and getting a new perspective. Usually by the time I have finished a draft I believe (right at that moment) that it's all terrible! But that's only fatigue talking.

Caryn Caldwell said...

I've tried it a variety of ways. I like to reward myself with a little time off before starting revisions, but I certainly don't need the six weeks that so many people say they take. For me, waiting so long is just a waste of precious writing/revising time. Others, though, can't function without it.

Conda V. Douglas said...

Yes, Caryn, six weeks is too long for me, as well--I forget what the book is about!

Swubird said...

Conda:

Such good advice, and yet her I am an ex-sailor and I don't even know how to clean the decks. Absolutely unaceptable.

My writing style is horrible - papers and notes all over the desk and updates and revisions scattered throughout multiple file folders on my computer. Sometimes I even have various versions on two computers at the same time. I should have a sign on my computer that says, No Littering. Really, I am a mess. The only thing I do worth a darn is that I periodically back up my manuscript onto a DVD, label it and stuff in in a drawer. At least, I've learned that lesson.

Thanks for the smack up side of the head..

Happy trails.

Conda V. Douglas said...

Oh my Swu! Goodness gracious, as my mom used to say (and she "filed" everything on the floor!). Let's hope that it's all part of your creative process?!