Beauty is in the Details

Pen Friends~

For our Feature Friday we want to welcome The Spinning Pen’s new Contributor, Ira McBee, a writer of Young Adult fiction, among his many other trades. His current novel is a YA fantasy titled, The WatchmanHis first post is below ~ Welcome Ira!


One time a witchdoctor healed me after being wounded in a sword fight. That’s kind of how it went, mostly. Well, not exactly. The wounded part is legit. Oddly enough, so’s the witchdoctor part. The sword fighting? That’s a stretch.

I was on a wild isolated beach near the equator choreographing a sword fight with sticks. It was fun, at least for two twenty-five year old boys. What made our fight heaps more fun was in the details. Our “first draft” was cool, but our fifth, tenth, and fifteenth drafts were far better. The small steps: the fake left, the dive and roll to the right, the spinning, slashing, jumping, jabbing.

We definitely had to work at it. Practicing our specific thrusts, blocks and footwork, but the more we got into it the more creative and precise our scene became. The whole process was fun, though some aspects were more laborious. Outlining the scene, creating it step by step, going back and changing certain moves, redirecting the scene into a whole new direction. Drafting and redrafting, the slow walk-throughs leading to the final production: swift, tense, fluid, smooth.

I am a pretty visual person, so when I’m writing or outlining it’s a full feature film rolling through the projector of my mind in vivid color. My first drafts are pretty thorough. Some people would say I put too much detail into them, but it’s just the way I write. Nonetheless, pick up any piece of writing and you can tell if it’s a first draft or not. Ernest Hemingway had some strong thoughts on first drafts.

Redrafting and editing can be the slow, methodical, step by step choreographing of your sword fight, but the beauty is in the details. If you have ever seen a chapter go from first draft to tenth draft, to twentieth and up to the fortieth revision you know what it means to forge the steel of your sword. It’s the careful work; the continuous re-visioning and rewriting that make your words sharp and your scenes moving.

Add all those revisions and redrafts into a full length novel and it equals a ton of work, but that’s what separates the published from the unpublished, the difference between landing a top tier agent and piles of rejection letters.

We can enjoy that careful crafting of scenes, because we’ll get to see the final draft in high definition clarity. All that is left are the hours to craft our words into the gripping, mysterious, and apprehensive.

Rolling, diving, and fighting now has me covered in sweat and sand back at the sword fight. I head to the waves of the pacific. A sharp thrust, a scream of pain and fear. Blood pulses from the wound with each thud of my heart. Poison races through my leg like fire. I’m unable to walk due to the fury of the stingray’s tail. Then the witchdoctor comes, and takes away the pain…

Ira signing off!

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