When I teach my First Year Writing English classes, one of the points that I emphasize heavily is the need for writers to revise their work. Many beginning college students assume that writing should appear magically finished and correct after the first draft, an assumption that I attempt to dispel quickly. I speak of how the word itself—revise—mean “to re-see, to re-imagine, and then to act on that re-viewing of the draft.” Included in their revision process is the use of peer evaluation of their drafts, in which they read and respond to each other’s work under my guidance. I have to say how proud they make me as a teacher, because most students take this work seriously and improve their writing as a result. With my first year students, I generally have them do 3-4 drafts of each paper before submitting it for a grade.
I thought of this process as I worked on the second draft of my future history novel, and I realized the enormity of work ahead. Like my students, as I read and considered the first draft of this novel, I recognized so many points that need to be evaluated and rewritten.
The first major task I had to complete was ordering the chapters into the proper sequence, which was especially challenging because I always draft all my writing by hand on legal pads. This first draft was a pile of tablets sitting next to my desk.
Then I started to examine each chapter to decide if it was needed or not. Some would be cut and some would stay. Then, I began the actual act of rewriting those remaining chapters, using the assumption that everything can be redone and improved. As I worked on this revision, I realized that there were also missing pieces, so I constantly noted where I needed to develop sections and where new chapters should be included.
At this point, I am approximately one third of the way through the second draft of this novel. I hope that I can complete it, the 2nd draft, by the end of this year. Then I will put it aside for a few weeks before reading it again and beginning work on the 3rd draft. At this point, I then ask several trusted people to read the text and give me unflinching critiques, an absolutely crucial part of the process.
In my academic side of writing, I am currently gathering material for an idea that is still in the very beginning stages as well as beginning work on an academic book that I will base on part of my Ph.D. dissertation. I will speak of this more during a later post.