Write, Read, Revise: A Journal of Process
When I first heard of draft: The Journal of Process, I immediately thought, ‘What a great idea!’ Writers Writing about Writing is a genre I can’t get enough of. I subscribe to the AWP Writers Chronicle where I scrutinize with great interest any article about writing journeys, especially the ordeals of writing fiction. Plot arc, flashback, major additions, major subtractions, wrestlings with POV, what to put first, the original impetus and how it became a 400-page novel: all grist for my mill.
However, I worried that an intensive look at process might involve reading ugly scanned documents full of inscrutable scribbles—most unpleasant to focus on, likely impossible to decipher. I wondered how draft would handle the visuals. How would draft make process easy to look at? I need not have worried. The editors, whose stylish signatures indicated that they were Rachel Yods and L--------- R-------- or possibly L------------ h--------------, (Now you know why I dreaded the scanned handwriting) have provided elegant and eminently readable solutions.
In the first example, “Velvet” by Stacey Richter, the draft appears on the left and the finished story appears on the right (helpful arrows indicate this from the start); the font of the draft version is lighter so it’s easy to distinguish the two. Moreover, next to certain paragraphs, the editors have written (typed, not handwritten!) helpful cues in the margins such as “See interview question 4, page 24.” Following the two drafts, in an extensive section helpfully labeled, “Interview,” the editors’ questions appear on the left (again in the draft font, which facilitates comprehension) and the writer’s answers appear on the right.
And the questions the editors ask are exactly the kind readers-writers would want to know too: “When and why did you decide to edit out the mother’s POV?” and “The ending of the first draft goes far past the ending of the final draft…at what point did you know that ending wasn’t necessary?”
The writers are well-chosen as well. They not only tell their personal experiences but refer to helpful materials from the larger world. Richter mentions Jason Zuzga in defense of cuteness for example, as well as Joseph Campbell and Laura Hillenbrand. Matt Bell, on the other hand, names some of the music he has been listening to while writing: The Decembrists, Fennesz, Okkervill River, Murder by Death. He also mentions Gary Gygax, the inventor of Dungeons and Dragons.
Bell’s “Hold on to Your Vacuums,” the other featured piece, is a significantly different work from Richter’s which gives the journal a good spread. And the questions are different too: “What do you get out of listening to music while writing?” The intriguing answer to that was: “…when you travel, you can make any space into your writing space…simply by slipping on some headphones and turning on whatever you’ve been writing to lately.”
Bell’s interview response also included a significant paragraph or two about teaching creative writing, how hard it is for beginning writers to jettison huge sections of a draft they’ve worked so hard on, how hard it is to know whether the replacement they come up with will be better. Both writers and writers-who-teach will appreciate the wisdom of Bell’s long experience. “That moment of perfect change is what rewriting can and will give them, and once they have it, they’ll never settle for just fixing the punctuation again.” Fittingly, these are the last words of the journal (other than Contributors’ Notes).
draft’s inaugural issue includes only two items, and that was a wise choice. A full draft and a final draft with deep attention paid to the journey from one to the other is plenty. More could have been too much to digest.
A subtle touch and perfect complement to the written content is the presence of a line drawing that moves from outline to finished sketch, appearing in bits and pieces throughout the issue until the back cover where four stages of the drawing are pictured. Even more subtle are the three tiny photos at the end, all relevant to the topics of the stories. This unique journal is likely to find a choice place in the lit-o-sphere.
Lita Kurth has also reviewed Washington Square Review, PANK, Quarterly West, J Journal, The Fiction Desk, Evening Street Review, and more. See Lita's other reviews.