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Someone once asked me what the hardest part of the writing process is for me. It took me awhile to figure this out. I don't like revising as much as I like writing the first draft so my initial reaction was: revisions, of course! But no, sometimes revisions are fun and in the end, they are quite gratifying so I can't say that revisions are the hardest part of the writing process for me.

It's the second draft.

The dreaded second draft. Here's why. I write my first draft like a maniac. It gushes out like water from a leaky roof in a hurricane and I don't have enough buckets to catch it all. It's all over the place.

I have a rule when I write a first draft which is that no matter what happens, I just keep going. Kind of like when I was studying martial arts and we would have a belt test coming up. My instructor used to say that no matter what happens, you don't stop. You just keep going. Even if you screw up. Even if you screw up BIG. Keep. Going. Get to the end of the test and worry about the results later. You know, because if you were in a fight and you threw a punch that wasn't perfect, you wouldn't stop and tell your assailant, "Hey dude, time out, I think I messed up that punch. Can we try that again?" In fighting, as in the first draft, it gets messy. You just keep going.

It was great advice and I use it in my writing. If I get to a place in my first draft where I don't know what happens next, I simply skip ahead to the next part that I know. Or I go backward to a scene I couldn't quite iron out earlier and skipped over. But I do not stop.

So when I get to the end, my novel looks like the Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz after the flying monkeys have torn out his stuffing and thrown it all over the damn place.

Which means that in the next draft I have to gather up all that stuffing and try to make some sense of it. I have to put everything in order so that if a human being were to read it, it would make sense. It's like a giant puzzle. I have to fit all the pieces together to form something coherent.

For me that is the hardest part. Once all the puzzle pieces are in place, I've got something to work with so revisions after that are not that big a deal. I mean they're hard, don't get me wrong but they are not as challenging as fitting all those pieces together. That's where I am right now in the WIP and it's giving me a headache. I wouldn't have it any other way but still, it's slow-going.

What's the hardest part for you?