Jane Austen’s Writing Desk: Photo by Stuart Freeman
About fifteen years ago, my husband gave me a book which had the draft first chapter of well known books followed by the printed first chapter. By reading one after the other you could see the process that the writer went through to polish the first chapter. (Don’t ask me what the title was, I can’t remember).
In the foreword the editor said that, with the advent of computers (see it was a long time ago) we were losing this kind of record of the writing process. In the past, the original hand written or typed manuscript of a classic might be donated to the national library. This way the development of the book from draft to printed version was saved for posterity.
Now we write over the old version. (Although I do admit that if I am going to make major changes to the structure of the book I save the earlier manuscript as V1, meaning Version One). Still, I would never bother to print off a copy of my earlier version and even though I do constant saves of my work-in-progress to USBs I’m sure these earlier versions will be lost.
All of which brings me to the Writing Process. For those of us who are writers, it isn’t mysterious, but for non-creative people it is arcane and hard to comprehend.
It is pretty amazing when you consider that we sit down with a blank word document and pull worlds and people out of our heads, weaving them into stories.
What prompted this post was an article in the UK Daily Telegraph about Jane Austen’s manuscripts drafts which will be on display. (For the full article see here). Ceri Radford says:
‘The two draft chapters of Persuasion that will be on display show neat, looped writing, occasionally scoured out with thick, angry black lines. It is a visceral thrill to see a favourite writer’s thought processes on paper; to realise that the sentences etched on to the page with such elegant certainty were scribbled out and scrawled back in again. It draws a direct line between the book on your bedside table and the woman who sat frowning at her desk, nearly 200 years ago.’
Much thought has been given to the Writing Process (not by me, I must confess – I just sit down and write). Crawford Kilian from Dark Waves has a page dedicated to it with many sub links from Developing Efficient Work Habits to Reading a Contract.
ROR’s own Richard Harland has a large section on his Writing Tips on .Good Writing Habits. In his Preparation section there are 8 subheadings. Writing Through contains 7 subheadings and Feedback and Revision contains 9. (I feel thoroughly ashamed!)
And then there is this site compiled by Sue LeBeau on The Writing Process. Every thing from the ABC of the Writing Process to Revise Wise Writing Activity.
As for my Writing Process. I just sit down and write and when I get stuck, I get up and clean something. There’s always something that needs cleaning. I find repetitive mindless activity really good for freeing the subconscious brain to make those intuitive leaps.
Twice in the last week I’ve woken up with the solution to a plot problem, one that I didn’t even know I had!
So there it is. What is your Writing Process?