In his essay “After the Workshop: Transitional Drafts,” Robert Boswell presents a revision process that sounds downright tedious. Each new draft, he advises, should be written with only one or two problems in mind. The drafts, then, are transitional because they’re not complete drafts.
Boswell’s proposal involves a lot of hard work, but it is far from tedious. If writing and “finishing” a story is about crossing a river, then Boswell’s method provides a much better strategy than attempting to ford that river all in one go. Each transitional draft is like a stepping stone. You swim out to one. Rest. Then you let the river take you a little further downstream. Maybe you notice a turtle, pass some otters, and see a doe and her progeny sipping from the water. There’s another rock. Good, now where? The more time you spend on and in that water, the more of the river you’ll see. In other words, the more that you work at a story while also giving yourself up to it, the more of the story you’ll be able to receive.