“The narrative part is over. What I want is to enrich and stabilise.” Virginia Woolf
Yes, thank you Ms. Woolf, I was beginning to feel very, very alone in my revision process. So many writers say they tend to over write first drafts. Hemingway recommended slicing off the first three chapters during revisions. Stephen King recommends cutting about 10% of your first draft for your second. I do this, but what I find more often is that I must add more to subsequent drafts. My first drafts are spare, action oriented, and plot driven. I tend to stay away from interior monologue, descriptions, elaboration, and motive. The scenes fall like dots on a timeline, broken only by dialogue.
When I turn in my work to my critique partner and my editor they usually ask for more. And yet, as my critique partner also tells me, “Trust your reader.” Don’t over-explain. Don’t give three sentences to describe it when it can be done in one. I find myself going mad trying to find the balance between too much and not enough, like some fumbling Goldilocks with a keyboard searching for “just right” within a house full of extremes.
I will say, though, apart from the difficulties of this balancing act, this has been a tremendously productive week for revisions. New scenes that add weight to characterization have emerged that provide a strong support for what’s there. New ideas have come that solve some plotting problems. I’ve found new ways to show my characters in action and provide more motives for their decisions. I feel like there’s more muscle in the draft, and it’s giving my manuscript balance and momentum.
Still, though, there’s a need for more. Much, much more.
Writers, I’m curious about how you emerge from a first draft. Do you need more or less? How do you find the balance between too much and not enough?