How many drafts?

One of the things that really gets new writers is when they look at what they’ve just written, they think it’s bad. You know what? It probably is. It’s a first draft, and almost everyone’s first draft is bad. Among other things, the first draft has appropriately been called “word vomit”. Get the story down on paper, and then fix all the problems. ┬áThen, go through it again and fix everything you’ve missed. Then do it again. The big question is how many times do you do this? Well, that’s different for everyone. In general, an outliner will go through less drafts than a pantser simply because some of the poblems are fixed in the outlining stage. I can only tell you how many I use.

I outline. I have approximately one plot point per estimated thousand words. With that in place, I can write a first draft in the to four weeks. In a first draft, I write the words as they come. I mostly stick to the outline but I’ll move away from it if I feel it’s best. This can lead to problems if, for example, I’m halfway through the story and I decide that I need something to have happened in the first quarter. If that happens, I don’t go back and change it. I just write on as if what I needed to happen actually happened.

The second draft, which doesn’t happen until weeks after the first draft, is fixing all the problems. It’s going back and correcting all the major plot holes and writting in all the things I decided I needed. It will often take longer than the first draft. It’s important to put distance between yourself and the story do you can look at it more objectively which is the reason for the time between drafts.

The third, I just read strait through. I try to see it as a reader would to find anything that is unclear.

For the fourth, I use a text to speech program to read it to me. This helps me catch missing or wrong words as well as awkward phrasing.

If there’s no rush, I’ll wait a week and read it again to catch any more issues. At this point, I’ll submit it, either to a publisher for consideration or to an independent editor if I’m going indie. Once they return it and I go over it again and incorporate their notes. A few days later, I read through it one more time.

So that’s my strategy. Four or five before submitting and at least two more after. By the end, I’m ready to be done with the story. The important thing is to try different things and figure out what works for you.

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