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@whatSFSaidWriting Tips #2

Here’s the second tip that I would give any writer (if you want to know the first, it’s here).

No-one can write a great book in one draft.  I’ve never met a single writer who could do that; a book is just too big and complicated.  You need to build it over a number of drafts.  Everyone does this differently – but believe me, everyone does it. 

The best example I can think of is Jon Stallworthy’s Between The Lines: WB Yeats’s Poetry In The Making.  I found this in a second-hand bookshop, and it changed my life.  Stallworthy meticulously went through all of Yeats’s discarded drafts, and reconstructed evidence of exactly how he’d written his poems. 

Here’s the finished text of my favourite Yeats poem, The Second Coming (click on the image to see it large)

Brilliant, isn’t it?  Hard to imagine it could ever have been any other way.  But have a look at the first draft.

“The germans are now to Russia come”???  And look at this – several drafts later.

“The second Birth”?  Clearly, he didn’t even know what the poem was going to be called, well into writing it!  Even very near the end, he was circling around the incredible final image that now seems so inevitable – developing it through sheer bloody-minded trial and error.

When I read this, I realized that even someone I thought of as a genius had to build their work layer by layer, draft by draft.  No-one just sits down and has perfect work pour out of them.  And if this is true of a poem, how much more true must it be of a novel?



“It’s amazing how fast you get used to such a big place. I tell you, when we first came up here I thought it was kinda scary.”


The sexism spectrum.

The sexism spectrum.


On one end of the spectrum there’s the ignorant douchebag. The ignorance doesn’t make him a douchebag, but his unwillingness to acknowledge his privilege and frustration at the thought of discussing culturally held ‘norms’ does. This is the guy that thinks sexism is over because women are in the workforce. His comments are the kind of sexist that people usually try to ignore because they’re ‘harmless’. 

The other end of the spectrum is the misogynist.  This guy thinks that sexism never existed, and that it’s some kind of conspiracy. He is certain of concrete differences between men and women on a genetic level that completely justify the ways that gender functions socially. He gives off the distinct vibe that he dislikes women, and you immediately notice that he won’t argue respectfully with them (he’ll gladly enter debates with male feminist allies however).

Now considering the ignorant douchebag end of the scale as 0, and the misogynist end as 10, try rating these fun phrases.

  • “The reason that there aren’t more chicks in lead roles in movies is because there are just less interesting stories about women”
  • “Women are far more nurturing than men, that’s why they make great mothers”
  • “She had that kind of really short hair like a lesbian but she actually still looked hot”
  • (in response to vulgarities uttered by a woman) “That’s not a nice thing for a girl to say”
  • “Women. Can’t live with ‘em, can’t live without ‘em.”
  • “It’s harder for men to be men these days because of all this political correctness bullshit”

It’s a fun game that you can play with all of your friends, relaitives, and pretty much everyone you meet forever! You can even play it when you don’t want to because you have to play it forever!


I used to think it was mere homesickness, then I started getting it at home.

John Lennon