As of this past Monday night, I've finished Draft 2 of Stains of Grace. When I write the first draft of a novel, I pound out the manuscript as coherently and quickly as I can. I started pre-writing for Stains of Grace on October 1, 2010; started writing on November 1, 2010; and typed "The End" on February 10, 2011. That's the fastest I've ever finished a first draft in my life...
Since I doubt the demons will ever deign to craft such a mundane, human thing as a newspaper, it’s up to me to report the news of goings-on in the world of Saltmarch. Saltmarch, in case you missed it, is a fictional realm inhabited by the demons of my paranormal trilogy. And, in case you missed that as well, the trilogy consists of:
Colors of Deception
Shadows After Midnight
Stains of Grace
Colors has a publication date of April 2011. (Oh, final edits, how I both desire and dread thee!) Shadows has no publication date yet, but it’s in the third draft stage.
As of this past Monday night, I’ve finished Draft 2 of Stains.
The First Draft
Now, allow me to clarify: When I write the first draft of a novel, I pound out the manuscript as coherently and quickly as I can. I started pre-writing for Stains of Grace on October 1, 2010; started writing on November 1, 2010; and typed “The End” on February 10, 2011. That’s the fastest I’ve ever finished a first draft in my life. The final word count was 80,421.
“The End” happened in the wee hours of the morning. After I’d slept (8 hours = a MUST!) and eaten (breakfast = a MUST!), I waded right into editing. Usually, I’ll let a first draft sit for a month before I go back to it; but this time, with the pub date of Colors approaching, I don’t have the luxury of taking my time.
Besides, my two foremost Saltmarch beta readers (Mama and Celia) have been admirable in not pressuring me for a complete manuscript — yet they’ve made it quite clear I am to deliver said manuscript into their eager hands, posthaste!
The Second Draft
And so, not ten hours after completing Draft 1, I started editing with the goal of completing Draft 2.
When editing toward Draft 2, I use the following approach:
1. I delete strikethroughs. As I pen a first draft, I try not to backspace. It breaks the flow of my thoughts, and sometimes it can break the flow of story. If I’m backspacing, I’m editing — and that’s a no-no for my first drafts. Strikethroughs mark words, phrases, and paragraphs I won’t need later.
2. I do light editing: fixing typos as I see them, changing a word here and there if it catches my eye. Sometimes, as I write Draft 1, I’ll write notes to myself in brackets. As I light edit, I judge whether or not the stuff in brackets is a quick fix or not. If it is, I’ll do it now. If it’s not, I’ll save those bracket notes for a later draft.
3. I just read the thing. I don’t allow myself the leisure of reading the story as I write the first draft, so now is my chance to read and see if this mass of words really is a story or not. If I get caught up in it and forget to edit, I know what I’ve got here is rough but usable material.
In the case of Stains, light editing took six days. The final word count of Draft 2 is 78,254.
Now, I hand Draft 2 off to my beta readers, and the agonizing yet exhilarating wait for feedback begins! Oy vey. 😉
The Third Draft
While I wait for my betas to chew through my story, swallow it, and spit out the parts they don’t like, I’ll tinker with the story a little bit. This means more light editing, a few fixes here and there, maybe adding a paragraph or three.
Or I might just leave the story alone and let it ferment some more. Taste-testing too much too early sometimes keeps me from appreciating the full flavor of what my beta readers have to tell me later. But for this part, I just trust my instincts.
When I get feedback from the betas, that’s when the real work on Draft 3 begins. Depending on what they tell me, I’ll do little stuff like correct typos, add dialogue attribution, and shorten sentences — and I’ll do big stuff like rewrite characters, move paragraphs from one chapter into another, and add scenes or entire chapters.
Once I’m satisfied with what I’ve done, I’ve got me a hot little number called Draft 3.
The Fourth Draft…and Fifth
Or Sixth — And So On.
After Draft 3, the rest of the drafts are basically wash, rinse, repeat — editing, handing off to readers, getting feedback, editing — until I feel like it’s clean enough. No book is ever squeaky clean. Especially from the writer’s perspective, there’s always going to be something that needs fixing.
But for me, it’s kind of like oil painting: If I go back to it too often, I’m eventually gonna mess it up. I must needs reach a point at which I wouldn’t be embarrassed to share the story with the public.
It might take me four drafts to get to this point; it might take me six. Colors is currently in Draft 4.5 stage. My epic fantasy novel, Triad, has gone through eight drafts and might require one more before it’s ready for the world.
Tell me, fellow writers:
Does my process look anything like yours?
How do you feel about handing your baby off to its first beta readers?
What’s your favorite tip/trick for the early draft stages?
I’m curious. Let’s talk. 🙂