If you’ve been following us at Embers Igniting for any amount of time, you have probably picked up on our viewpoint that writing is a process. While a first draft can have potential, I would always encourage any author to take a piece through several drafts before submitting it for publication, here or anywhere else.
I’m not talking about reading your piece once or twice, editing for grammar, and maybe hacking a scene out every one hundred pages or so, not to mention rearranging a few. I’m talking about the nitty gritty, complete rewrite of eighty percent of the entire story type of editing that I would consider crafting.
Think you’re the exception for such tedious work? That your work is ready for the world the first time it comes to your fingers and erupts onto the page?
Before I address those questions, I would urge you to think about why you write. It’s a question every writer should have an answer to, and the discussion of it is a blog post for another day. But let’s assume that a part of you wants to share the best story you can possibly create with readers so they can enjoy it, take something with them, and tell everyone else that your story is a story worth reading. If you’re a writer, then you’re a reader, and I would bet that a story along the way has truly impacted you, showed you what your writing could be, and ignited a passion inside of you to create something that would impact someone else.
One of your primary jobs as a writer, then, is to satisfy the reader, because why would anyone say your story is worth reading if they weren’t satisfied? Keep in mind, reader satisfaction goes far beyond whether a reader likes or dislikes your story. It’s the feeling the reader is left with by the story as a whole. It’s the feeling you got from the story that impacted you the most.
Maybe the character development resounded with you. Or maybe you got caught up in the characters’ fights, and the story wrapped you in their emotions so tightly that when the story ended, you felt breathless, but fulfilled, with a peace that all your most important questions had been answered, and all of the parts came together like an orchestra.
But I bet there have been books you’ve read that you put down, whether or not you had finished them, and the only thing that ran through your mind was, “what?” An empty sort of “what” that made you feel like something was inexplicably missing from the story. Like you’ve been jipped and you never want anyone to read the book and feel the same disappointment.
Why would you ever want to write a book that left someone with that hollow feeling? You would never intend to do so, but if you don’t craft, it will happen.
If instead you want your story to resound with the reader, then you must commit yourself to the crafting of it. Why? Because you are not like God and cannot see how things will actually play out in your story from beginning to end, no matter how much you think about it or plan it. It is only when you actually write the story and have words before you that you can craft those words to create the greatest amount of humor, love, suspense, and intrigue.
Crafting is the continual process of using every resource and skill you have to grow and shape a satisfying story. It’s the ability to objectively scrutinize your work and rewrite the flab out of it, realigning every detour until the story flows in one cohesive path, working to make the story the best it can be, draft after draft. I’ll talk more about how to do that in future posts of this series.
Before I finish, I want to address those of you I mentioned earlier who think you may be the exception to crafting. I used to think the same. It’s an ego that is arguably necessary when you first start writing, because if you think your stuff is crap, why would you keep on writing? But there comes a point when you reread what you’ve written and gawk at it, whether it be a piece from years ago or a month ago.
This is good; it means that you are improving. Crafting helps to not only improve your story but improve your writing. It is a process that will never end, which is great. Don’t you always want to be improving as a writer? I could write a book about all the things I’ve written that I’ve gawked at: gimmicks, clichés, not to mention absolute flaws in the plot. And I would probably gawk at the entire first draft of that book as well!
And you know what? After years of crafting, I am one hundred percent convinced of its value. I know that I will constantly be crafting and learning how to do it better. And I’m excited to see how my writing will change and how it will get even better the more I practice crafting. From someone who has been in the exact position as you, let me tell you that if you exempt yourself from crafting, you will not see significant growth in yourself as a writer because you will never see what needs to be improved.
You may write as many stories as you want; what makes you a writer is the commitment to crafting one.
By Tracy Buckler
Images from FreeDigitalPhotos.net. Image credits in order of appearance: Stuart Miles, khunaspix, pakorn, Stuart Miles.