Drafts and drafts and drafts

Lately I’ve been following the blogs of Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith – if you’re a writer, you should be following them too: filled with wisdom and great ideas and, wonderfully, they do not suffer fools gladly. They are husband and wife, and run WMG publishing, and used to run Pulphouse publishing. They blog about the publishing industry, and sometimes seem to contradict each other (Smith says he can’t see a reason to hire a professional editor, Rusch says go ahead and get one), which is fine, I’m gleaning gold from both. My novel is getting professionally edited, but I’ll stick some stories up from having a single reader and a proofread.

Smith is doing a challenge this year to write and publish 100 stories. He writes them, proofs them and publishes them. I’ve bought and read the one of them (so far) – “On top of the dead” – and it was pretty good. Not perfect, not gemstone polished, but it was a story and, seriously, I enjoyed it and was engaged from start to finish. Isn’t that what counts? The study guide I teach from states that the fiction’s only rule is that it must compel the reader.

When I was interviewed by Shells Walter earlier this year, I was asked about my advice to beginning writers. I said that your first draft is not good enough, probably not your second draft either. Now I think I’m inclined to agree with Smith, though with a caveat – Smith is no beginner. He’s published around 90 novels, over a hundred short stories, teaches and has run publishing businesses and worked as an editor. I guess he knows his way around stories. Something he’s noted is that students don’t necessarily improve their stories on the second and third drafts, and often make them worse (I’m paraphrasing here, but I don’t think I’ve misunderstood – though don’t quote me as having quoted him). On occasion I’ve noticed that with my students, though that said, sometimes the final story for the year is a much improved version of the original.

So, should I edit this blog post, or just let it out with a simple proofread? What, you saw a typo?

From time to time my stories can be dreadful. I don’t need a reader to tell me that. I put them aside, come back and really they’re not working. I rewrite from scratch. Now, that usually works and I get something I’m happy with – Where there’s water took a couple of runs at before it was working. A current story – Sleeve Tattoo – is at a second draft stage and I know there will be wholesale deletions, some extra bits to write and so on to make it work. Other times I do write quickly and the first draft needs tightening, proofing and seems ready to go. Back from Vermont was like that. So was Deadstick. Both got published out in the real world. One of the keys is to know when it’s just not working, and I’m still learning that.

I’m not that much younger than Smith and Rusch, but certainly by comparison I’m a fledgling writer (though my first publication was more than 20 years ago, and I have published over 100 stories, I’m still earning a living from tutoring and librarianship). I’m learning lessons and growing as a writer. With my new publishing venture – Triple V Publishing – I’ll start electronically republishing some stories that have only been in print anthologies, and then, taking a lesson from Smith, perhaps start writing and publishing stories right away.

Deadstick – the first Triple V story, will be out soon. It was one that was written fast – over a couple of weeks – and came out pretty much how I wanted it, with a few changes (though in it was originally conceived as a fairy story, it became dieselpunk – more on that closer to release).

2 thoughts on “Drafts and drafts and drafts

  1. If I can quote you on your quote on Smith… teasing. This is a great article, S. I’d have to agree with both of you, and it probably has to do with personality and style. I do both. Sometimes my stories need lots of rewrites and drafting and they come out better (just look at my terrible repeats and grammar on twitter. It’s awful! My storywriting is exactly the same way.) BUT sometimes, after rewriting, I don’t like it because I lose the original.. what is the word? Passion, flavor, life of the story. And if you don’t have that umph the story is dead. So I go back to the first draft and well, keep it with a little touch up.

    I’m excited with your new direction and wish you much success. Thanks for all the links, btw. Looking forward to Deadstick.

  2. Yeah – personality and style. I’ve had stories that were duds on the first, second, third…. and so on… drafts, others that just clicked on number one (with minor corrections).

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