I’m starting to think that some of our first drafts mis-steps, such as an over use of adverbs or passive sentence construction, are actually part of the imaginative process. Perhaps when we are imagining our creative worlds, no matter the genre, we have to rely on the small things that might inhibit the strength and power of our final drafts. Maybe we need to use the words “just,” “began” and “moment” because our creative development requires us to do so.
Consider this: you are at the writing desk and you’re asking yourself to conjure up the exact language to name an experience. The distance between what you want to articulate and what you able to articulate in this moment is grand—if we think about it too much, it overwhelms. You're lost in the forest and unsure of the way.
So, what do we do? We take tentative phrasing steps as we seek to give birth to our ideas, to naming the memory, to finding the image that conveys the emotion we are exploring. And these steps often fall into the rhetorical moves that ultimately, in a final draft, will most likely need to be edited out. But, we don’t have the ability to recognize such moves in the drafting process—BECAUSE WE NEED THEM to deliver on our ideas. We show ourselves the path by making mis-steps.
I recommend we embrace the possible requirement of such moves – and know that later down the writing road, we will come back and do a search for those sneaky little words that worm their way into our work. And we might even be a little grateful for how they’ve helped us to get to this point in the draft.
This blog post from 2013 explores how to “catch” such errors, “On High Alert For Rhetorical Tics”
One such move we might do is something called “filtering” – and I think it’s might be necessary as we imagine a character in a situation: we are envisioning a character in a situation, and to do so with clarity and precision, we often go overboard in relating the scene through that character. Here’s an example of before and after:
I hope you can see and feel the difference between these passages—to me, the second is more immediate, engaging, atmospheric. The second passage allows me to enter into the character’s experience more fully with her – rather than through her.
But, I need that first paragraph in order to hone the second. So, rather than be embarrassed or annoyed with the awkward, amateurish nature of the first passage – I’m grateful that it helped me imagine a scene, that it provided the necessary entry point into the material. I'm pleased I'm in the forest, moving toward the light, one step at a time.