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Transcribing - A Chore, A Release

Earlier last week I finished my pre first draft of my first WIP, which you can read about here. So anyways, I took half a days break before it called me back, needing me to fix all the extremely awkward parts. So I returned, eager to clean up the decidedly trashed bits. I've finished the first two chapters, a few times merging scenes that themselves took too long, tightening up dialogue or description, and general maintenance.

The hard part for me is seeing how, well, bad my writing was when I started longhanding. Because I couldn't go back and tweak each and every sentence as a better version came to me, it forced me to keep moving forward. It's also making me realize that the first draft of any novel can be VERY ugly. I'm trying not to mind it, knowing it was just the bones of the story and soldiering my way through it. But to be honest, it stings a bit, seeing these choppy, unsavory sentences even as I work to make them a little less painful.

The first day was especially difficult, partly because I was mixing the original beginning with the next major scene in order to maintain the flow, but mainly it was the sentence structure that stuck out to me. I kept doing double takes at the words written in my journal, surprised to see that I wasn't as beautifully natural a writer as I thought. Well, not when I'm trying to catch up with a Muse that's two scenes ahead, anyways. It took me that night and half the following morning to reconcile myself with the idea that, yes, the first draft will ALWAYS, invariably, suck. Yes, there will be some awesome passages, and I may tear up at the gorgeousness of a scene as I write it.

But every time I go back to type out my WIP, I HAVE to brace myself against the possible disasters I may encounter when I transcribe, revise, edit. Its the only way to make it all better. Not perfect, but better. And that gives me hope. I hack away at the words with determination and zeal, rearranging them or tossing them as I see fit until my writers voice is truly present and my characters fully formed.

So, I think of the immense sense of accomplishment I will feel when I'm ready to start querying for a literary agent, the optimistic confidence in that I had done all I could without the guidance of one. Even if the manuscript doesn't catch the eye of an agent, I will know that I put in all this work to hone my craft, learn who I am as a writer, and grow as a person. It makes me proud of myself, determined to fulfill that feeling in the future, time and time again.

How do you get inspired to return to your own editing and revisions?


  1. DJRM says:

    Very interesting post. I think that in some cases, the lack of editing when writing in longhand helps a writer. Longhand is "unofficial" so there's less pressure to get it 100% right.

    What inspires me to get my work transcribed (and consequently from 1st to 2nd draft) is fear of fire, water damage, or loss. I've read Anne Lamott's advice about "really, really shitty first drafts" so many times that my inner critic is almost silent. Now, going from 3rd to 4th...that's probably going to be a journey through hell. (@DJRMel)

  2. Gretchen says:

    This makes me think of a quote I always keep in mind (forgot the source) about this process being like a sculptor chiseling away the marble to release a beautiful angel. That's what you are doing now. Maybe that's the art of it all.

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