Methods to the Madness

Every writer has a different approach to writing, a different method. My writing process, for example, has to involve a pen and paper (at least at first), and a very fragmented style. Meaning, if I get a scene in my head, or even just a line I think sounds good, I write it down. It is never, ever the opening paragraph. Then I’ll get an idea for a different scene, and write that, but it is rarely the scene that directly follows what I just wrote. Eventually they all come together.

There are also linear writers who can’t move on until the opening scene is secure. That, to me, would take forever. I’d be staring at a blank sheet of paper for hours if I was forced to think of beginning before I could continue. But they would probably think my process takes forever, and then we’d both disagree with someone else’s third approach.

Other choices writers are faced with when deciding which method works best for them are usually along the lines of “paper or computer?” “inside or outside?” or “gin or coffee?” But, the process that most fascinates me about writing is revision. You cannot be a writer and not revise. And then revise again. Something unavoidable, like the actual writing of words themselves, often means that it involves an entirely different approach.

I love revising more than I love writing a first draft. I don’t usually finish a first draft before I begin revising what I already wrote. But of course, there are those who loathe the revision process with a passion that rivals our collective disdain of whoever slighted Sandra Bullock this week. What are your methods and opinions on revising? I have a feeling you’re all going to say something different.

Lastly, something else that I’ve been wondering lately, as I ask for revisions, is what do writers prefer to hear from agents or editors? Would “complete re-write” would induce vomiting? Is it better to hear “add more” rather than “delete?” Things to ponder…

Enjoy the hot weekend everyone!

30 thoughts on “Methods to the Madness

  1. I find revising to be a huge challenge, but it does help me flush out a better story in the long run. I'm fortunate in that I've had a few agents ask for revisions on some recent work of mine – what strikes me as interesting is how subjective the process is. For me at least, the task of revising is a necessary one and while I'm currently unagented, when an agent is wildly enthusiastic about your first draft and has asked for revisions, it makes it a heck of a lot easier to do.


  2. I don't revise very much in my “digest,” but I do revise the “cartoons.” Sometimes when I post them, I see things I was unable to see on the paper. So, I just go back to the table, take out the crayons, and get busy.

    I like the art to have a very tongue-in-cheek feel, so too much revision can make the work appear unfunny. And since the pieces are caption-driven, I just try to keep it all spontaneous and “in the moment.”


  3. I think that you could suggest a complete re-write but identify the major issues (The delete this or add this would definetly fit here) so the writer doesn´t feel completely lost, and ends up altering something that was working before.


  4. My method is ‘bum in seat’ linear. If I get an idea I let it fester and grow before I start to work on it. If I think it’s a good enough idea I roughly plot then put my fingers to work.

    I fast draft the first draft before I revise – if only to keep the story fresh and flowing. When I finish the first draft I walk away come back a week or so later, print it, read it and take notes. Second/third/forth draft is the same process until I feel I’ve done all I can.

    I haven’t submitted to an agent or editor yet, but I’d be open to any suggestions and/or revisions they might suggest – who wouldn’t want to make their work the best it could be?


  5. I’ve been reading the blog, but I’ve never commented before. Oh, the pressure of my big debut!

    After my first draft is finished, I always rewrite the entire story again. I’m sure many writers do. It always helps me push the scenes to their full potential, layer themes out better, and flesh out the real complexities of the characters that I didn’t know while writing the first draft. The second draft can often surprise me just as much, if not more, than the first. When the story starts brimming with its full potential, I really don’t think there’s anything more exciting in the world.

    Single chapter rewrites have their own joys (like replacing each and every chapter you don’t love with a new, shiny one until you can’t think of any part of the book you don’t want to hug and pet), but I’ve never acquired the taste for line edits. Changing big things is always more fun than correcting typos or tense issues.

    If an agent or editor asked me for rewrites, I’d really hope for either whole chapter rewrites, or a new draft. It allows for more change, more creativity, and hopefully, a bigger payoff. I used to loathe rewriting when I tried not to rewrite whenever I could, but I love it now. And the idea of a professional helping me polish the story even more is kind of, honestly, one of the most exciting things to me about submitting to agents.


  6. I think most of the magic happens with revisions, but I also prefer my revisions to be something I agree with. I can't imagine getting revisions back from agent asking me to change things that I feel don't work for me, but would work for making the book more marketable. That's one of my hesitations with traditional publishing, I think.


  7. i'm very much the same as you- pen to paper, thoughts that just pop in and out of my head in no particular order, eventually start to come together and make sense. and i LOVE revising and editing! love it!

    cut, delete, add- all sound okay. 'complete re-write'…. don't really want to contemplate those words.

    back to editing! yay!


  8. My process begins with printing of my novel and going through it once or twice to look for big plot holes. Then after those have been changed, I go through again and look for inconstitancies that the added/ deleted scenes have brought. Then I go through and look for writing. Then I send it off to a beta, apply their changes and look through it once more.

    When hearing back from an agent, hearing the words “complete rewrite” would make me die a littkle inside. I go through a lot of work to write and then revise. I would much rather pound out the problems on my draft than start again. I'm not bothered by “Delete this” or “add this.” As long as there are good reasons. Complete rewrites make me feel like everything I've done before was a waste of time. Of course, sometimes its necessary, and I will acknowledge that.


  9. I write mostly-linear on a computer, but tend to revise and rewrite pretty heavily as I go. The act of writing the first draft, for me, is like discovering the novel, and sometimes that means having to tweak or overhaul some of the stuff that came before. I need a solid place to start before I can get going, but it never ends up being the final first page. The rewrite is when I get to step back, see where I goofed, “suddenly,” “and then,” or -ly'd, shred, and repair.

    In any feedback, I'm looking for someone who can step even FARTHER back, point out what I'm too close to the text to see, and help me figure out how to fix it.

    And “complete re-write”? Heart-stopper if I don't secretly know it's true.


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