Faye Rapoport DesPres

Drafting and Revision

Have you ever had this happen: you work on an essay (or poem, or fiction piece) for months, and finally think you’re just about done. You’ve shown an earlier draft to a strong reader, and have incorporated many of his or her comments. You’ve deleted sentences and paragraphs (and even scenes) that you decided were extraneous, and you’ve focused all of your paragraphs toward a conclusion that makes sense. Your ending sentiment even circles back, in a way, to something hinted at in an earlier part of the piece. Nice job! You even played with the ending quite a few times, and have finally settled on a sentence that you think brings it all home.

You show your essay to your proofreader, so you can tidy up any last details before you send it out. Then she writes back and says:

“This feels like an early draft. I don’t think you’ve decided what you’re writing about yet.”


I remember this feeling from my early days in the MFA, when I was sure that a piece I had worked on was done, only to have a teacher suggest that in fact I was just beginning. By this stage, though, I was hoping I had a better handle on when an essay I was working on was done.

I guess not!

I have a couple of other readers looking at the draft. We’ll see what happens. In the meantime, I have to remember that this is all part of the game.

Revision, revision, revision until it’s right.

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