How many drafts does a novel take? It depends on the novel and it depends on the writer. I seem to be an eight draft kind of girl, so far. Here are my eight drafts, each one started in Scrivener, exported to Word and tinkered with there. Most drafts were typed over from scratch with the previous draft at my elbow, as a guide, a ghost, of what had come before. There’s the Jigsaw Draft, which is a scrappy floor plan, unreadable to anyone but me. There are three full drafts before the draft my agent read, then a draft from her notes that I sent out to my first readers, Beta readers, and then the draft that came from the reader’s notes. There in the prettiest ribbon is a clean copy of the draft my editor read and, below, that same draft pulled apart and scrawled over, scavenged and cannibalized to incorporate her notes and thoughts and feelings.
I like to start over. I like to abandon my words and keep looking at the nut of the thing inside them and behind them,coming at it from different angles, again and again, sure I can do better. But, there comes a time when the brain says, Wait – what? Again?
How many drafts will the brain allow? I’m still scratching away at the story I want to tell, digging in, pushing back, so I’m not there yet. But I’m close. I’m almost there. I can feel it.