Michelle Wittle on More Conversations with David Wroblewski: Revisions

Michelle Wittle On, Writing Tips

Remember when you were in high school and your English teacher told you to go and revise your essay? What did you do to it? Most people would have taken the essay back to their seat, mumbled a curse under their breath and looked once again for spelling and grammar mistakes. Perhaps a sentence or two were changed and then it was time to write the whole essay all over again.

Most people were taught this was the acceptable mode of revising.

While spelling and grammar are corrected in the drafting process; they are not the only things that should be reviewed and reworked.

According to David Wroblewski the writer of the bestselling novel, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, revising is the best part of writing. His suggestion to aspiring writers is to overwrite in the first draft. Wroblewski revealed that in its infancy, his over five hundred page novel was at least one thousand pages. Wroblewski also admitted that he hates writing the first draft. In his eyes, the first draft of the novel is the clay. It is nothing but raw material and a vague idea. As one begins sculpting the novel, new things will develop and the novel will begin to start forming. For Wroblewski, watching his lump of word clay turn into a novel is the best part of the writing process and it is the most rewarding.

I agree with Wroblewski. When it comes to writing, I think it is imperative to just write the thing out. Do not stop to fix the spelling and grammar because it is a wasted effort at this time. Also, you may tend to get so caught up in the mechanics of the sentences and word structures that you will lose your focus and the creativity. Spelling and grammar are road blocks writers use to stop themselves from telling the story.

I had this one story that started out as a page. The characters had no names and all I had was the basic idea of what I thought should happen in the story. Now, the story is twelve pages long. My characters have names. I even introduced a mom in the story. The story now has a specific day and a symbolic reason the actions are happening on that day.

The only spelling and grammar check I have done is the one that can be found in Microsoft Word.

Because my story’s flesh is still being manipulated, I can’t worry about the mechanics of it. I could be correcting spelling and grammar that might not even make it into the final draft. Through writing the story, I may find that I need to change the narrator or add another scene. I am still revising the story. When will I be done?

For me, I know my story is done when I can look at the story and nothing overly bothers me. I could surely fine tune things; everyone can find things in his or her writing they would like to fix.  But when the story doesn’t bother me anymore then I know it’s done.

Revising isn’t just fixing spelling and grammar like I was taught in high school. Revising is looking at the work and making sure the story the characters want to tell is being told in the best way possible.

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