Carving Down to the Core

I’m working on an article for the March–­April 2013 issue of Arizona Wildlife Views about the Becoming an Outdoorswoman program. After attending one of these last spring in Prescott, I want to let our readers know about BOW.

I have a huge first draft, and it’s messy. It’s first-person narrative: First I did this, then I did that. There is plenty of action, but little sensory detail. (I’m bad at recording scents and sounds while something is happening.) It has an opening, but I’m not sure I like it. At least it has a few paragraphs about what BOW is. That’s good.

The first draft has a few quotes from participants. Other than that, the text is all me, me, me. Yes, this is supposed to be a first-person story, but too much “me” leaves no room for the reader to imagine herself there. And it’s just long. The first draft is 2,900 words. My challenge is to carve out 1,000 words and create a better second draft.

Going from first to second draft is about finding the heart of this story. This may be how Michelangelo felt, staring at a block of granite and looking for his David inside. In this mass of words, where is the core?

It helps to focus my attention on my reader. I picture her, active and interested in the outdoors, wanting to be more so. She would love this kind of event, where she could get away from home and family and learn new things. She would be excited to read about it, but she would also have questions. In my mind, she will ask:

  • Is it fun, or scary, or boring?
  • Will I be pushed beyond my comfort zone?
  • Will I be able to sleep well? Stay clean? How’s the food?
  • Will I learn enough to do things on my own once the weekend is over?
  • Will I like the instructors and the other campers? Will they like me?

Putting my fingers on the keyboard, I decide that I want to answer her questions without being too straightforward about it. I will pick and choose what to tell her, and try to entertain her while letting her know I share her concerns.

I do have a block of granite here. How I carve it is up to me.


2 thoughts on “Carving Down to the Core

Add yours

  1. Julie:  You are spot-on, as usual, in cogitating about the questions your readers will have–they are very similar to questions that I have asked myself when thinking about attending a BOW.  My hallmark for writing, which I learned from Randy Bayliss, also continues to be, “brevity, clarity, vigor”—those 3 words often help guide me when I feel stuck!  Hope you are well!- Kerry


    1. Kerry, your confirmation helps me to feel I’m on solid ground with the second draft. Thank you! As for brevity, clarity and vigor, qualities that are so important in writing and speaking, I tend to work toward the first two as I produce successive drafts of a story. I have to be careful, in that process, not to leach vigor from the piece. Thanks for your comment!

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