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Almost there…

IMG_3450How 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.

8 Comments Post a comment
  1. I do one draft. I start at the beginning, go until the end, and then I’m done. One of the things that kept me from writing anything publishable for decades was the idea that rewrites were part of writing and that everyone had to write one draft and then rewrite it.

    Whenever I have tried rewriting I have destroyed everything that made my stories worth reading. (This isn’t just my opinion, pretty much everyone who has read my work in different stages has agreed that my first draft is much better than any subsequent rewrites.)

    So I write slowly, I chew over my words before I type them out, but once I have something down I leave it alone unless I run across a factual issue that must be corrected. I proof for grammar and spelling, but the words that I write today are the words that are going to be in the finished manuscript.

    I don’t advise this method for everyone, but it’s what I have found works for me.

    March 6, 2014
    • I like to write really fast and dirty drafts, trying to write without thinking too much, filling in and throwing away the floor plan of my first and scrappiest draft. When I work slowly on early drafts, I doubt myself. I doubt everything. Writing fast, I can just put it down and move on. Later drafts are more careful and considered, but I still type them over from scratch because it’s the only way I’ll see every word. My fingers have to see them. However we write, the best thing is to discover how we write best – then to stick with it and keep doing it! Thanks for your comment – much appreciated!

      March 6, 2014
  2. Wow, I’m so interested to see that you rewrite everything in each new draft. I work more like Misha. I tend to redraft as I’m writing. I throw the words down initially, then edit when I type, then reread before writing the next chapter and edit again, and then look back and edit again. I am currently half way through a first draft, but I am going to send it to my writer’s group to get feedback and then possibly to my agent, before I move on to the second part of the story. It’s so interesting how differently everyone approaches it. Out of interest, how long does it take you to write a first draft? I love your ribbon tied manuscripts, by the way. Very picturesque.

    March 7, 2014
    • I’m not sure I’d recommend my method to anyone! For me, the drafts are how I work out the story, how I work out what I think. I’d love to learn how to write fewer and slower drafts. Maybe the next book! Thank you!

      March 10, 2014
  3. claireking9 #

    Your post has come at a great time. I am fighting my way out of the nth draft before I am happy to hand it over. This book has had many more drafts than the last and – I truly hope – many more drafts than the next will have. I’m a little drafted out right now, and so happy to see all of yours. Thanks, Peggy!

    March 9, 2014
    • We’ll get there, however many drafts it takes! Best of luck with yours, Claire!

      March 10, 2014
  4. And a year later or more, I find you via something I saw on Kate Mayfield’s Twitter page. I’d been reviewing Kate’s book, and I wanted to make sure I had the correct Twitter link for the review. There was your morning Tweet with something to say about morning pages. I read that one and printed it out to savor a bit more and look into the practice. But I was drawn to what you might have to say about writing and found this post.

    How many times should I say thank you for making me feel that I’m not OCD’ing on drafts? I can’t possibly do just one. It’s like moving through making a quilt or redecorating a home–each time I need to go back and see what I’ve done so I can make it better next time. I’m just nearing the end of my first manuscript, and I’ve never experienced so much angst as I have writing this book! But I’m determined it will be good when I’m finished. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    August 4, 2015
    • And thank you for reading! There is no way to know how many drafts we’ll need, when we’re starting. Every book is its own creature and some need more drafts, to be realised, than we can possibly imagine. Keep going – you will get there!

      August 5, 2015

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