For Monday, January 18, 2016:
“Focus on the story, not the sentence.”
For the first draft, yes. And most of the second, with perhaps a tweak here or there, or a note to change a couple of paragraphs around (or delete them altogether). The story’s still coming together at this point, so it’s too early to worry too much about things like sentence structure or spelling (unless mistakes change the meaning).
Once the third draft rolls around, the focus can shift more toward technique. Now is the time to ensure the sentences move the story along, so they have to be in better shape. They still don’t need to be perfect at this point, but it’s a good idea to start honing in on tense agreement, for example (do they agree?), and if those paragraphs need to stay or go. If you’re writing fiction and suspension of belief is called for, is it crafted in such a way that it’s believable, where the reader could see such-and-such happening? What blanks or holes need to be filled in?
After you’ve finished the third draft, you can – if you so desire – hire an editor to start working on the story and the sentences. She or he will work to make sure the sentences benefit and enhance the story. S/He will go line by line to ensure the grammar and spelling and tenses are all correct. Then s/he will look for paragraphs that need to be moved elsewhere, for holes that need to be filled in and developed.
Now that the fourth draft is completed, you and the editor work to fine-tune everything.
Then it’s time to ask the hardest questions: Does the story hold together now that all those changes have been made? Have the two of you made it easy – not simple, mind you, but easy – for the reader to focus on the story that you focused on in the beginning?