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Analogous to nervous cluelessness is something we might call “anxious gatekeeping.”   This is desire to police the borders of poetry, or of...

Friday, December 18, 2009

No Rough Drafts

I never write a "rough draft." Nor would I ever show anything to another human being that was a rough draft. The term I use is "penultimate draft." In other words, it's not final yet, but next-to-final.

I have basically four categories. Notes, which can be in any form and have no style to speak of. They might not even be complete sentences.

Next, prose per se. I usually use three asterisks *** to separate what I've written in prose at the beginning of a chapter and the mere notes at the end. The hardest part of writing is pushing forward and creating prose out of mere notes.

Thirdly, penultimate prose: every sentence has been written over several times.

Finally, final prose, such as that which would occur in the publication itself. Every sentence is more or less fine tuned.

I would only show writing at the third stage to anyone else, because it would be an insult to them and would show me not at my best. If you want help with your work, get it to a presentable stage first, so that the help can take place at a higher level. Oftentimes the feedback descends to the level of the work itself. In other words, if there are a lot of distracting stylistic tics, the reader will focus on those rather than on the ideas.

1 comment:

Andrew Shields said...

And when you do show it to someone, don't prejudge them by saying, "It's pretty rough." Give them a chance to come up with their own response.