Why and How I Write (3)

Shifting back and forth between the intuitive and the rational, the meditative and the intellectual, right brain and left brain, I often go through as many as ten drafts before I’m persuaded I can’t improve my story any further. Then comes the mechanical checking. I read the text aloud from the computer screen, then print it out and read it aloud from the imprint on paper. I check for sentences so long that I can’t read through them without taking a breath. I listen for the musicality inherent in words. I feel the rhythm in the word order. Once I enter corrections, the text is finished and ready to be submitted to a publisher.

This process works for fiction but not for nonfiction. Nearly all my published writing is fiction, but I do occasionally write articles. The nonfiction requires an entirely different approach.

For an article or essay, I start with an outline and jot down some ideas to fit in somewhere. I continue to fill out the outline until I have an idea for each paragraph. Then I start writing.

Once the draft is complete, I start revision. I allow myself to slide into the intuitive, right-brained mode for the first review. In other words, I check out the aesthetics, looking for verbal beauty. For the next review, I shift back to the intellectual, left-brained approach, judging the logic of the text. I continue revising until I’m satisfied that I can’t improve the text any further, then I proceed with the mechanical check described above.

As will be obvious from the foregoing description, something like 10 percent of my writing time is spent on original drafting and 90 percent on revision and polishing. I am a slow writer. It takes me literally years to complete a book, months to finish an article or short story. I have no complaints. These days, I am a fulltime author. I take whatever time required to get it right.

More tomorrow.

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