Part 3 of 3
In the initial post of this series, I wrote how the Essential Nine Phases of the Writing Process offer a way for every writer to use their process to support their writing practice. What I hope is most refreshing about the essential nine phases is that they offer up an opportunity for all writers and poets to acknowledge that there is more to writing than putting a pen to paper or fingers to a keyboard.
Viewed together, the essential nine acknowledge that all the time we spend reading, observing, and mulling things over have as much value as the time we spend drafting, revising, and rereading. This time around, we’ll consider the three essential end phases, namely refining, finalizing, and sharing.
Let’s take a look:
Refining your writing takes as much or as little time as you are willing to devote to it. It is in the refinement stage that subtle and important adjustments are made to a working draft. Much the same way we would give ourselves a quick visual once over before we leave the house for an appointment, the refinement stage requires that you apply a similar critical eye to your writing.
As I am about to leave the house for anything, I check on what, for me, are the essentials. Do I have my keys, my bag, my phone? Am I somewhat put together? This quick visual check is focused and critical since these things are important to me. My writing is equally important, as is yours. Thus, the same idea of looking closely and critically at a working draft applies. When I print out a hard copy draft and am readying to refine it, I am looking for anything that appears out of place or that could be further fine-tuned for clarity, flow, or impact.
I look to notice anything that subtly catches my eye, be it mis-spellings, lines that appear rough or misplaced, or anything that jumps out at me. It is no wonder why the refinement phase, akin to what we, in writers lingo would call “the final touch” is so important.
It is during this stage where previously unrecognized moments in the writing call upon the writer to switch up a line or take out a word, to reorder the placement of a passage or to suddenly cut a series of overly descriptive details. If you are lucky, and well into your process, you may find yourself substituting words, adjusting lines, or opting to switch out three words when one will do. You get the idea.
Repeated close readings for clarity and overall impact are hallmarks of this phase. Read silently to yourself. Then, read the piece aloud. You’ll listen to your words while aiming to get a better sense of rhythm and flow, of noting whether there are cadences within the piece, and noticing whether your intentions are as clear as you had hoped and whether they make sense.
And remember, you are working with a late stage draft here. Is what you meant to say as clearly communicated as what the words on the page are offering up? If you are unsure, you’ll go back, reread, and refine further until you’ll feel the writing is ready. And how thrilled will you be as you watch your writing further tighten and improve along the way?
One of my favorite quotations and one that I use frequently in my creative writing workshops is from the poet, William Butler Yeats, who is credited with essentially saying, that “…when a poem is finished it snaps itself shut.” There is an instinctual knowing when a poem or piece of writing is technically finished, yes? You may feel that your work is complete, well crafted, and ready to be shared.
As you continue to read your final draft aloud you’ll notice moments within the piece that call out for a subtle adjustment. For this reason alone, I love and enjoy this particular phase. This is where a sharpened sense of editorial craft-related concern couples with what I consider to be creative magic. It is in these moments, where the last attempts to make this piece of writing as strong as possible take place. You’ll find that the final, last minute fine line adjustments elevate your writing. During the final stage read-throughs, I have thrown out periods and added commas last minute. I’ve adjusted enjambments for the betterment of a stanza and the entirety of the poem. The point here is that even when you think you are finished, you may not be. The finalizing phase allows for the unexpected observation of a moment in your work that could be improved. These editorial surprises are usually minute and last minute touch ups which, in turn, may take your writing to the next level.
The sharing phase will take you and your writing in entirely new directions, if you are open and willing. This is when you plan and implement strategies for sending your work out into the world. And there are so many options. There are numerous ways to share your work, so decisions must be made. What fun! Will you attend a reading? Begin to blog? Enter a contest? Submit work for publication? There are many options for you to share with the understanding that your “final copy” may very well be finished by now. But, often when you share a piece, especially at a reading, you’ll still recognize at that stage that the writing may need to again cycle through some of the earlier stages of the nine phase process. Yet, when all is said and done, you’ll need to commit to sharing your voice and allowing your words to go out into the world. You will want to share.
Perhaps you’ll find, with the input of a reading partner or a workshop group, that sections still need to be overhauled. This is no big deal. Writing is work. The worst thing that can happen if you find yourself back at an earlier point in the nine stage process is that your writing will benefit.
I believe, it is necessary for the health of every writer to send work out into the world. You may be very well surprised by the responses and reactions others have to your writing.
And may all of that positiveness, in turn, serve to infuse you with vast creative energy and the desire to write. May it motivate you to return to the keyboard or the notebook and begin this nine stage process all over again. In sum, I hope that you will continually revisit each of the essential nine phases while reflecting on your own writing process and practice. May the Muses remain with you as you do.