Meg Medina and Aimee Agresti
Meg Medina and Aimee Agresti

At James River Writers’ last Writing Show of the 2012 season — “The Elements of Edits: From Rough Draft to Published” — panelists Meg Medina and Aimee Agresti discussed all aspects of the writing and revising process. 

Medina has written numerous books for young readers and recently received the Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Award for her picture book, Tia Isa Wants a Car. For a decade, Agresti has been writing for the entertainment magazine, Us Weekly, and in 2012 saw the release of her debut novel, Illuminate, the first of a planned trilogy.

Medina and Agresti presented two very different approaches to writing and revising. While Agresti tends to outline, Medina talked about going into “a zone” to connect with her characters. Agresti’s outlines are detailed, but she’s comfortable veering off-plan as she goes deeper into each story. Medina hates to outline and instead seeks inspiration in her Latina culture to create stories that provide inspiration, direction and hope to today’s young readers. Agresti finds much of her inspiration in novels she read as a young adult, and said that she sought to write Illuminate as an update of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray.

The panelists agreed that the flow and the core story are the most important aspects of the first draft. Once the first draft has been completed, the author can go back to tighten the prose, develop the themes that are now apparent, and make sure the opening scene hooks the reader.

As agents, editors and marketing teams get involved in the process, titles change, themes change, characters are enhanced or cut, and ultimately the published book may have only a vague resemblance to the original vision. The process may be disjointed and trying and quite long — it may take years to complete a novel — but in the end, great rewards are found in the publication of the book and the opening it gives an author to speak and to inspire readers and writers.

— Melanie Carter, JRW Intern

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