One of the more joyful moments for me during this year’s Wadadli Pen contest – the judging of which is now complete – was receiving the redrafts of most of the short listed pieces. I say most because one writer did not take up the opportunity to review, revise, and resubmit the piece; but, glass is half full, eight of the nine finalists did. The improvements to the re-submitted pieces were noticeable; the stories becoming more fully themselves.
This process was guided by myself and the judges – especially (writing coach) Brenda Lee Browne, who supplied comments specific to each story to help guide the writers shortlisted by first round judge Dotsie Isaac Gellizeau through the review. It was an important exercise, I felt, in helping the young writers (the target group of this programme) understand that writing doesn’t happen in a single breath. It’s not all inspiration, though certainly inspiration is a part of it. Fact is though, writing isn’t paint by the numbers, and for even seasoned writers the process of chiseling a work down to what it can be can take years. And, ideally, what you submit to a contest like this (or to a publication, agent or publisher for consideration) shouldn’t be your first draft. And even after you’ve submitted what could be your 15th or 50th draft, once the work is optioned, you will still be assigned an editor to help make the work publication ready. Alternatively, if you’re self-publishing, you’ll likely pay an editor to fulfill this function. Either way, review and revision is part of the writing process. It can be laborious, intense, tedious…but it can be in the end exhilarating.
We hope it was that for this year’s finalists.
We have now collectively determined the overall winners (for both the visual and literary art components of the 2011 challenge), the names will be revealed and the prizes awarded in June at the Best of Books anniversary fair, and there’s still a lot to be done between now and then. But more than anything, I’m thrilled that the writers had the opportunity to see their work evolve. Writing, after all, is a process.
For an interesting discussion on redrafting, check out the Writers Circle.
And finally thanks to the judges – Renee Philip in art, and Dotsie and Brenda Lee in writing – without whose help this entire exercise could not have happened.