Drafting your book from start to finish.
Writing a novel? Thinking of writing a novel? Don’t know what a draft is or how many drafts you need to write before publishing?
There are many different methods to writing a book, fiction or nonfiction. I have been coached by some of the best fiction authors around, taken countless extended classes, and researched extensively on how it all should be done. I have considered all methods and come up with a system that works for me, which includes the basic fiction writing necessities as well as bits and pieces of methods that suit me. I stay pretty much within the traditional guidelines for writing, without too much detailed plotting. I still strive to improve my craft, always room for improvement.
But to learn, you must write.
Let’s start with the basic meaning of draft: A preliminary version of a document.
There are different opinions on how many drafts a writer should have of their books before handing it over to an editor. Some authors do 10 to 20 versions of their manuscript and some, like me, only do about 3 or 4. There is no wrong way as long as the finished product is as good as you can make it…and edited.
A word about editing: You must have your document edited by a professional. For non-fiction or fiction, content and copy editing are essential to ensure you have the best end product you can get. You would be amazed at how many errors go undetected because the manuscript lacked a review from a second and third pair of eyes.
So what’s the process?
Here’s what I do with my novels.
After I have somewhat plotted my story and gotten to know my characters, I sit down to write my first draft. I am a light plotter and heavy pantser, so much of my story comes out organically. I try my best to write without stopping to self-edit – I just keep going and let the story evolve, already knowing most of the main plot ahead of time, although not in detail.
When I’m at the half-way mark of my projected word count, I often print out what I have so far and read it, making some corrections and checking to make sure it’s flowing and that I haven’t gone astray too far in any aspect of my writing.
Then I finish the rest of the first draft and read that through. I will usually let it sit for a minimum of several days before diving into my second draft.
My second draft is where I cut anything that’s unnecessary, or add things like description, dialogue, plot pieces, and other elements that are needed to make the story better. I also try to catch mistakes in timeline, character and places names, and make sure I’m consistent in the information I’ve given the reader about personality and physical description of the characters. If this is too overwhelming, I sometimes bump some of these checks down to my third draft.
My third draft consists of adding what’s referred to as emotional layering. I add the dialogue, actions, and thoughts of my characters that will express their deepest emotions through each scene. Depending on the story, I will use a method called deep POV to help the reader experience the emotions through the eyes of my characters.
A fourth draft for me would be watching for grammar mistakes, document formatting irregularities, and anything else that stands out as needing a fix.
Then it’s off to the editor, who will provide me with plenty of red marks to consider changing. I really do like this part of the process because I learn a lot. Most editors will want to see your corrections and look it over one last time.
Next, it’s sent to beta readers to see if they catch any errors that were missed. They always do. Once those are corrected it’s time to either send it to a prospective publishing house, or Indie publish if that’s what you choose to do.
I realize this is a bit of a simplified or condensed explanation of your draft process, but it will give you an idea of how much work it takes to produce the final product. My way is not the only way, and if you’re like me, you will try several different methods until you come up with what is comfortable and still provides quality writing.
The important thing is to make sure your final draft, whatever number draft that is, is looked over by someone who is objective. Preferably not Mom, or Aunt Susie, or your spouse.
If you would like a detailed check list for the way I do drafts, Click the link for a free download.
Jeanne Takenaka says
Jan, it’s always fun to learn how writers create their books. Thanks for sharing!
Jan Cline says
You’re welcome, Jeanne. Thanks for stopping by!