Thursday, July 03, 2014


"The average pencil is seven inches long, with just a half-inch eraser - in case you thought optimism is dead." - Robert Brault

A rectangular eraser lies on my desk next to the lamp. It supplements the tiny eraser on the end of my mechanical pencil which would quickly run out if I used it exclusively.

Next to the lamp sits a pen and pencil holder. In it live roller ball pens of several colors. My favorites are the hot pink ones. I use those to mark up the print-outs of the scenes of whatever book I'm currently revising. I go through almost as many of those as I do blue or black pens.

While I appreciate the optimism of Brault's quotation, it doesn't reflect my reality. If I designed a pencil to accurately show the amount of time I spend on revision versus writing, the eraser would be two feet long and the pencil less than half an inch. This pains me since I thoroughly enjoy that flying blind bliss of the first draft. Sometimes I find that same pleasure in second or third drafts. But once I'm down to the deep cuts writing requires, it's all work.

I know others with the opposite perspective. For some, the initial draft is the hardest part and once they have "something to work with" they're golden. My hat is off to them. Still, I would wager even these people spend much more time rewriting than they did on the initial draft.

What about you? Do you spend more of your writing hours in drafting or revising? I'd love to hear about your process.


Anonymous said...


What an interesting pattern we follow, those of us who write fiction at least.

First the joy of the first draft. It seems long to me, but it is about 10 minutes out of my writing hour. The other 50 are spent on drafts, re-reading and fiddling, and finally swearing to myself this is the last of it, I am done. At least until I glance at it and find a glaring error.

Repeat with next chapter, and the next.

Joy said...

My challenge is getting the initial draft. I can easily get "into the zone" while editing and do that joyfully--even the hard cutting part. But I have to use bribes and rituals (for instance, coffee must be in a ceramic mug; dining room table must be clear and uncluttered) to get myself to the point of the initial creation & production of the words that will be reshaped into my final draft. But when I remember to actually do the writing practice I learned from Nita (keep the pen moving), I can also get "into the zone" when creating the initial draft.