Julia Cameron in The Right to Write talks of “laying track” – getting the words, and getting them all out, before going back to edit and revise. (In May/June issue of Poets & Writers Magazine, short story writer and soon-to-be-published novelist Benjamin Percy has a good article entitled “Home Improvement,” about how revision can also and often does function as major renovation; alas, the article is available only in the print edition.)
I like the idea of getting it all out, and then going back to revise. Revising during the original drafting process is often futile, and it’s been my experience that most writing – a story, a poem, an article, an essay – benefits more from getting the words out first, followed by editing and revising.
And then there are speeches. Or at least the way I write speeches.
I have generally written speeches in the same way since I started writing them, which was, well, let’s just say I was writing speeches before we had desktop computers or laptops and word processing software.
But early on I fell into a pattern, and once I began to recognize it, I formalized it. And it went (and it still goes) something like this.
First, I type the speech draft on my computer. I let it pour out, assuming the words are pouring (sometimes they trickle, and sometimes I have to call the plumber in to unclog the faucet). But assume they’re pouring. I let the whole thing just cascade onto the computer screen. At this point, I avoid editing at all costs, because editing will only bog me down. Julia Cameron would be proud.
Next, the first Big Edit. I engage in what I call SWBWA – speech writing by walking around. I print a copy of the prose torrent, and then I walk around, reading it. There’s nothing magic about the walking; it’s just what I do, most likely out of nervous habit. As I walk, I will often will read it out loud, to listen to how it sounds (well, it is a speech, after all, meant to be heard as opposed to read). I have a pen with me, and often stop to make notes, change a word or phrase, or strike a sentence or paragraph. Back at my desk, I start the second Big Edit –and edit the typed draft by hand. Then I’ll type the changes.
Finally, and especially for those speeches requiring emotional writing or the use of empathy or compassion, I will write those sections by hand, and often over and over again. I can’t explain it, but I write emotional sections of speeches by hand, and it always comes out better than trying to write it on the computer or a typewriter. After I’ve got it where I want it, then I type it into the draft.
It’s probably no coincidence that I write poems like step three of writing speeches – always by hand. But that’s another story.
Over at the High Calling Blogs, Laura Boggess is leading a discussion of Cameron’s The Right to Write. Take a look and see what others are saying, commenting and posting. Last week’s discussion was about writing where you are. This week's is on the "time lie."
Nancy Rosback at Poems and Prayers talks about making time and bad writing.
Nancy's "Just A Minute" at Treasures of Darkness.
L.L. Barkat's "Writing Theft" at Seedlings in Stone.
"If" by Marilyn as As Good A Day As Any.
"Flight" by ELL at Red or Gray.
Monica Sharman's "The Right to Write."
Maureen Doallas' "Creative Rituals for the Writing Life."
"Blacktracks," photograph by Nancy Rosback. Used with permission.