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Computers and the second draft - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
Computers and the second draft
Reading one of the books in the pile of writing books I read when I should be writing, I kept running into things like, "On the first draft do this, on the second draft do that," and so on.

I realized that, while I refer to "second drafts," they're never more than revisions or expansions of the first. I don't have any serious system of drafts at all. Some paragraphs enter my stories whole as I type them, others are on their fourth or fifth write-through. Some sentences and paragraphs, I'll write again even after I've posted them.

I've done most of my writing since the advent of the computer--has the computer killed the concept of doing a "second draft," per se? I mean, as in going back, going over the whole thing again as you work in revisions, working with the story as a whole. When I revise my stories, it's at the level of the paragraph or the sentence. Very, very rarely, I'll re-write a scene (I had to do that in my novel, when my editor said--quite correctly--that I had too many points of view). I might add a scen or delete one. But I haven't ever gone back to the beginning and re-written an entire manuscript, because there's no need to--errors and gaffes can be fixed one at a time.

Have we lost anything in the switch? Or am I the only one who finds the concept "drafts," in the traditional understanding, to be a bit outdated?

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lonestarkate From: lonestarkate Date: August 2nd, 2004 07:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
I've never done the 'start all over' drafting thing, because it's never made sense to do that.

On short pieces I'm looking for words and grammar, because in keeping the count down I revise before I record the sentence. On long pieces I go back and forth- if I do more than a few lines of revision, I'll start over to make sure everything is still ok, so I don't have to do it all later.

I don't remember what we were taught in school, but I doubt it is what I do. :)
rabidsamfan From: rabidsamfan Date: August 2nd, 2004 07:14 pm (UTC) (Link)
Even before computers I seldom re-wrote an entire piece except for neatness of handwriting. Most of my corrections were made by interlinear or marginal insertions, with an occasional piece of notebook paper grafted on when an idea went sideways. And with lots of lineouts, of course!

With the computer I tend to dump deleted stuff into a file, just in case I had a brilliant bit of wording that needs a different home, and I "save as" so I can go back to the earlier version when I've gone too far astray.
jetamors From: jetamors Date: August 2nd, 2004 08:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
I usually rewrite from the top at least once, but that's because I find it easier to work with something already on the page than to start from scratch. Usually my second drafts are radically different from my first drafts, but after that they're roughly the same. I don't think it's a computer thing, it's just a different people thing. You obviously start out with a fairly clear vision of what you want to say. I usually don't.
narnian_dreamer From: narnian_dreamer Date: August 2nd, 2004 08:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
I tend to write in drafts even on a computer.

When I first sit down to write a story, I often find myself putting backstory or explanations in places that they really don't belong in, because I'm just getting a handle on the background myself, and I'll write down whatever occurs to me.

I also have a habit of putting projects completely aside for months or even years and then going back to them. Looking at them with fresh eyes this way often makes me feel that they need a major overhaul.

I move paragraphs around, delete some, add others, and sometimes write new paragraphs that contain the same material as my old ones, but presented in a different way. A few paragraphs make it from the initial draft to the final with only minor changes, but not too many. And I think I tend to treat the work as a whole while I'm making these changes. I quite often end up changing the plot or adding and deleting characters as things stop feeling right.

I think it just depends on the method of writing, rather than the advent of computers. I've written true second drafts before when I've transferred stories from handwriting to computers, and I see myself doing the same things when I edit things that are already typed up. I'm not sure if this is what you mean by using "drafts," but if it is, then maybe it's just another one of those "different writers work in different ways" issues.

P.S. I remember reading that Ray Bradbury used to write in the way you described, making more mechanical changes paragraph by paragraph with each draft than truly rewriting his stories.
From: magnolia_mama Date: August 2nd, 2004 08:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
When it comes to profic, I write the entire thing in longhand. That's my first draft. Then, as I type what I've written into the computer, I revise--sometimes at the microcosmic level, but more freqently on a much larger scale. Then I print my second draft and attack it with a red pen for "smaller" revisions. I've done as many as five or six complete drafts on a single manuscript, and I've even been known to chuck an entire MS and then resurrect portions of it in an entirely new one.

I follow pretty much the same procedure but on a smaller scale with my academic writings--I don't do the hand-written 1st draft-- but I'm not nearly as meticulous with my fanfic efforts.

maidenjedi From: maidenjedi Date: August 2nd, 2004 09:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
No, you're not the only one - drafts are dead. And that's a HORRIBLE thing, because it's cost me in English class from time to time (I'm saved only by the fact that my profs and I get along famously). I can't make myself do a paper and not fix it as I go along. I polish it three or four times before I even finish it, and by and large the first printing is the last. I've not been hurt by it, either. Sometimes in fanfic I have, but only because I use WordPad and not MSWord (no spell check feature!).
kelleypen From: kelleypen Date: August 2nd, 2004 09:11 pm (UTC) (Link)

Drafty notes from a composition teacher.

well, I usually tell my students to write their first draft handwritten. Then the second draft on the computer. It works well for me and seems to help them, if they'll do it. As far as revising subsequent drafts, it's all a matter of put it away, read it again, change it a little, read it to a friend, etc. I've gone through ten or eleven drafts that way, but they're all revisions of draft 2. If I don't do the first draft handwritten, then I'll handwrite the second one. There is something about changing media that helps me get into my head better.
buongiornodaisy From: buongiornodaisy Date: August 2nd, 2004 09:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
There is no such thing as a draft when I write. I edit even when I first start writing a fic. The closest I come to writing an actual draft is if there are several versions of a story or chapter (as in, one version has a certain series of events, the other version has a different series, the third version might be a combination of the two, etc). I do save "beta" and "final" "drafts," however, but there are no "first" or "second" drafts.
readerravenclaw From: readerravenclaw Date: August 2nd, 2004 10:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
The YA novel I'm writing was conceived from the middle outward, so I have quite a number of beginnings that I wrote for it. Several times those beginnings were actually a good number of chapters. (The largest discarded version was 100 pages.) However, I was writing all these "drafts" as drastically different ages - beginning in about 8th grade or so, continuing sporadically through high school, and on till now.

Once I finally settled on a story, though, I certainly didn't go back and write a second draft; I do all my editing paragraph by paragraph and scene by scene.

I also save all deleted scenes and even paragraphs in special files. I doubt I would even be able to find a particular scene if I were to look for it, as the files are not organized at all, but knowing that I am not actually deleting the writing allows me to be ruthless with my pruning and editing.

The one disadvantage to computer-enabled editing is that it makes it easy to become a compulisive editor, revising and editing over and over again instead of forging forward.

Still, I can't imagine not being able to easily edit. I think I'd find it much more difficult to write; how would I force myself to write down my sentences, paragraphs, knowing that I'd want to edit them just moments later, with no easy and non-messy means of doing so?
ladyelaine From: ladyelaine Date: August 3rd, 2004 04:26 am (UTC) (Link)
Thank heavens for computers! Rewriting from the beginning because of a few mistakes is way too time consuming.
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