When in a Draft: Re-Read Your Own Pages

I’ve been working on a draft these past couple of weeks, so I have the writing process on my mind.

I was chatting with a couple of writer friends the other day and they both said when they’re drafting, they start the writing day by re-reading the previous day’s pages and editing them. This helps to get back into the state of mind of the piece, for continuity, character and tone.

I myself haven’t used this technique too much because I usually try to just get through the first draft and crank it out without engaging my critic too much – however, I feel that I’m probably at a disadvantage in not reading the previous pages. The next draft I’ll definitely use that technique.

I just finished a draft this week, and for me, it’s always easier to write once I’m sitting down and writing. It’s harder for me to write in bits and pieces, here and there – I really need to block out chunks of time. But the best way in that block to get back into the feeling of the piece is to re-read your pages.

I suppose I’ve always had a slight resistance to editing before I write simply because I feel they’re two separate brain spaces: left (editing) and right (creative). Once I get into the editing zone, I can slash and burn pretty easily (or just rewrite everything). However, in that create space, I’m able to generate more freely without invoking the critic. However, what I’ll likely try to do is simply re-read the pages without engaging too intensely with my critic, and then edit whatever feels natural in the re-read.

Years ago I saw a lecture by David Self (Thirteen Days), who explained that he started off every morning by reading the whole script up to the point he was writing. That sounded to me at the time like a lot of time every morning before actually getting to the writing, but I now understand that it enriches the world by looking over everything carefully, and would really help with the emotional trajectory of the characters to dig back into the journey before continuing on. If you think about it, this would only be more time consuming once you’re past the midpoint, as up until then, it wouldn’t be too slow a read.

So, start the next day by editing the pages you’ve written the day before. If every day you begin that writing day by re-reading the previous day’s pages, if not more, then by the time you get through that draft, it won’t be a first draft anymore, but it will be more carefully edited.

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One Response to When in a Draft: Re-Read Your Own Pages

  1. Kyle December 29, 2009 at 10:48 pm #

    I used this technique this past summer when I wrote my first feature-length and found it very helpful and centering. I didn’t even consider it being a technique, it’s more like I forgot what I had written the day before and wanted to find the tone/feeling of the story again. Plus you catch those small errors from the day before when you’re writing on fumes.