Wednesday, June 2, 2010

what kind of idiot writes a draft?

In highschool, our teachers always made us write a draft of any stories or essays we did in class. I used to wonder, What kind of idiot needs to write a draft? Surely, any halfway-smart person knows what they want to say. Of course, when you're a teenager, you know everything, and I sure as hell knew then that I wasn't some dumbo writer who had to take a few goes.

Many, many failed assignments later, I discovered that I need to write a draft.

It's not about knowing what to say, but knowing how to say it so the message is received in an adequately expressive and unambiguous way. It's the duty of every responsible writer to meet a reader halfway - and this translates to real life too. For instance, nothing shits me more at work than when people pull me in to answer a question that takes place midway through a conversation that they had in their head. Context is so important, and so easy to offer quickly with a bit of consideration before engaging.

This wasn't meant to turn into a half-arsed rant about irresponsible communication. I actually wanted to share my writing process. If you're interested, that is. ^.^

When I sit down to write - a Discoveryzone article, for example - I generally start with a planning doc; a scribble of notes about the aim of the article, the intended audience, a rough list of topics to cover and sites that seed the research process.

Next comes the 'streams of consciousness' draft. This is essentially a brainfart of facts, concepts and phrases that come out of the thinking process. My SOC drafts look quite different to the planning doc. For example, the original list of sites may change shape, shrink or grow during the SOC process. Topics may be added, removed or merged; whatever feels natural.

The final SOC draft will usually contain repetition and word-for-word splices from my research material, producing a flow that's quite rough and clumsy. SOC drafts are then tidied up to form a first draft, with more presentable, non-plagiarised flow and wording.

Subsequent drafts and edits follow, peer review, grammar assistance, Engrish removal, yeah you heard me... until finally, a final.

Like my arrogant highschool self, I firmly believe you don't need a process for good writing. Not one prescribed by others, anyway.

What I've ended up with here emerged over the course of a couple years, where I was getting paid to write properly for public consumption. It's organic, it suits me, and for you to write your best, I think you need to find your own way to do it.

That's it from me.

1 comment:

amber renee said...

Haha! Thanks for the link to our article. I love this realization -- everyone needs to write a draft, even Steven King. It can only improve from there! ;)