Draft to Draft, Tracking The Creative Process

It is amazing how easily one can forget the steps it takes to create a finished and publishable piece of writing. The piece we read on a page is rarely ever the first version of the story. But what happens to the earlier drafts?

We have been reading Henry David Thoreau, mostly his essays in Walden, for the last few weeks. But what we have been reading, the published version of Walden is just one version of it. The essays within Walden were written and rewritten in a span of a few years, which we as a class saw through Digital Thoreau fluid text online which lets the viewer compare multiple drafts of the different chapters of Walden.

Being a Creative Writing major, I am very familiar with the multiple and multiple drafts that come with creating a written piece. These drafts can show the simple correction of grammar or word exchanges to the massive undertaking of adding and removing paragraphs. Sometimes, by accident, I forget what I named the newest draft, so I use Word’s “compare” feature which pulls in two different documents to compare what was added and removed from the “original” draft to the “newer” draft. I have learned through this class that this type of mark-up is called TEI.

We spoke briefly in class about TEI and how to use different code sets to tell the computer to read or set the text up in different manners. Unlike HTML coding, TEI focuses on telling the viewer how the text should look. As in what is the beginning and end of a paragraph, what is a line, as well as how the text was edited. This means particular coding inside the brackets to show what was added and what had been removed from draft to draft.

What I find fascinating about this, is that it allows us to see the fluid motion of one’s thoughts and ideas as they find their way on paper. It’s a way to see an individual’s creative process. Although we can’t exactly use this process to find out why Thoreau made the changes he did (we can speculate but not know for sure). I am curious though if this kind of analyzation can be used to see how and why current writers change their drafts.

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