Writing Processes – Part 2: Redrafting

I didn’t see Star Wars when it first came out. The first time I saw it was on video, in the Autumn of 1982, shortly before my thirteenth birthday. I always thought the timing was significant. Up to that point, boys had been an alien species. But then, on the brink of puberty, I saw Star Wars and all of a sudden I was having strange and confusing feelings about the very cute farm boy and the very hunky space pirate.

Anyway, to cut a long story short I made up for lost time and became a hard core Star Wars geek very quickly. So much so, I decided to put myself in the Star Wars universe. I created an alter ego, and wrote stories about her. My character was a teenage girl, who turns out to be Han Solo’s long lost half sister, and after tracking him down she joins him on the Millennium Falcon for many exciting adventures across the galaxy. Then she discovers that her father, always believed dead, is actually still alive, and she trots off to be reunited with him, and all this conveniently happens before Han Solo meets Luke Skywalker. OK, I’m not saying the stories were any good. They were very bad, and I was indulging in narcissistic adolescent fantasy. But I am going somewhere with this story, so bear with me.

I wrote half a dozen books about this character. They were all novel length; it never occurred to me to write short stories in those days (that’s a tale for a future blog). As usual, I wrote them in pencil in the back of old exercise books. I was simultaneously proud of, and embarrassed by, these stories. Embarrassed because this was in the days before I accepted and embraced my geekiness. Afraid to reveal just how sad a geek I actually was, I never showed these stories to anyone (which on reflection is just as well – I could be sued by Lucas for all manner of copyright breaches should they ever appear in the public domain).

But I was secretly quite proud of them, because I immensely enjoyed writing them, and I decided they deserved a better presentation than as scrappy notes in the back of exercise books, even if I was going to be the only one reading them. So I bought shiny new notebooks, and I copied all the stories out again. Neatly. In pen. I even drew a cover image for each story.

And as I copied, I began to revise. I amended paragraphs I thought didn’t read quite right. I changed dialogue that sounded wrong. I deleted sentences that made no sense. And lo and behold, I learned Lesson Number 2 – the art of revision. The second draft is always better than the first draft.

I didn’t own a typewriter, and as we were still in the mid-1980s at that point, word processors were not yet commonplace. But I started a new routine. I wrote the first draft in pencil, double spaced. Then I wrote the final draft, in pen, single spaced.

Join me soon for Lesson Number Three, in which I learn the skill of condensing.

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2 comments so far

  1. Sonya Clark on

    I was four when I saw Star Wars and I’ve had a thing for pirates ever since. 😉

    You didn’t use the word “fanfic” to describe your stories set in someone else’s universe but that’s the term I’m familiar with. As far as I know it’s legal here in the US to, for instance, post fanfic online. You just can’t make any money from it, has to be for entertainment only. Is the law different in the UK? And if so I wonder how that works online. It can’t be only us crazy Americans posting Dr. Who and Harry Potter fanfic online. 😉 I’ve read about quite a few authors that taught themselves how to write by writing fanfic – Naomi Novik of the awesome Temeraire dragon series comes to mind. I plan on writing a post about fanfic soon because it’s a subject that fascinates me for some reason, even though I’ve never written any.

    Looking forward to Lesson Number Three.

    • sayssara on

      Sonya – yes, technically it is fanfic. However, when I wrote those stories, the internet did not exist and, consequently, neither did fanfic.

      It probably is OK to post fanfic without permission. The main problem with my stories that they are all far too long to post as fanfic. Most fanfic is veyr short. Mine are all novel length.

      And then there is the additional problem of them really not being good enough to be aired in public!


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