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December 2012

Question of the Month: Drafts

by Susan Henderson on December 3, 2012

Tell me about your editing process, and where are you in your current project?

In May, I completed what I called a first draft of my new book—that initial dump of all of my ideas that resembled the shape and length of a novel.

Since then, I’ve been structuring, cutting, moving, shaping, developing themes and emotional layers, adding and subtracting characters, simplifying some things and complicating others, panning in, panning out, balancing the length and pace of the chapters. All the while, I’m reading, reading, reading to train my ear, to keep the bar high: Camus, Baldwin, Steinbeck, Brontë, Gaiman, Stoker, Irving, Wharton, Dickens, McCullers. I’m nearly done with this second draft, and I like what I see.

Though I’m close to my next milestone, I still haven’t, and won’t, show my manuscript to a single soul. I’m enjoying this time of creating and dreaming alone. I love marking up a chapter, editing it until all the marks are cleaned up, and then starting again. I imagine two more drafts before I send it to my agent for feedback—the third draft where I pay attention to the individual sentences, concentrating on language, imagery, and rhythm; and the fourth where I spend a few weeks living in the town that inspired my setting. (More on that later. No reason to go on about the fourth step when I still need to nail the second.)

So how about you? Want to say where you are in your current project or anything about your process? I’d love to see how you work.

In other news, I’m interviewed at length in a new book written by Chuck Sambuchino and published by Writer’s Digest Books. CREATE YOUR WRITER PLATFORM is an incredibly fascinating and helpful book about how the publishing industry has changed and how writers can best adjust to the new expectations. I found myself underlining and dog-earing lots of advice, and there’s enough diversity of styles in the book to suit different personality types. I particularly like the interviews with Cal Newport and Lissa Rankin. Definitely worth picking up!

I’ll close with some thank you’s: Suder BlogEsmee-Jacobs, Girl Called BelovedRhody Reader, True STORIESBitch Media, and The New York Times. I appreciate the press!

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