This weekend I had time to write in what was (I am horrified to say) the first time in nearly two months. This is my own fault in a lot of ways–because I wasn’t making the time for it, and also because I’m someone who prefers to write when I have a long chunk of time to do it. If learning to write in fifteen-minute spurts is a transferable skill, I want to learn it.
Anyhow, I found myself spending a huge chunk of my time just trying to figure out where I had left off. I have trouble just jumping into a story–I need time to fall into it and get a sense for where I am, and in this case I needed to remind myself what had happened with my characters up until the point where I had last left them.
This is much more difficult than it was when I was just working on finishing the draft. Back then, I would just read the last few pages and then get to work adding what I wanted to happen next. Now that I’m revising, I need to figure out not only where the characters are going but whether I need that to be different than it was before. Does it make sense with changes I’ve made before this point? Does it continue the progression and the nuances I’m trying to add to the story with the revision?
Overall revision feels like a lot more work than writing the draft ever was. It’s still fun and engaging, but in its own totally different way. Instead of building something from scratch and seeing what I come up with, I’m working with something that already exists and trying to find ways to change it and make it better while still maintaining the structure that I built when I was writing. I’m definitely starting to get to that point where I feel like I’ve been looking at these pages so much that I can’t see them for what they are anymore, which means some more close friends are (finally) going to get the okay to read the next draft.
When all was said and done, I only got through about two new pages this weekend, but I also had the opportunity to remind myself what was happening in this other little world I had created. It was sort of comforting to know that they weren’t all moving along without me. That’s what’s sort of fun about writing fiction: when you come back to the characters you love, they’re always right where you left them.
How is it for you? Do you find it easier to write a first draft, or to revise? What strategies do you use to jump back into a story in an efficient way?