Writing Experience Relating to Number of Drafts in a Book


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Thread: Writing Experience Relating to Number of Drafts in a Book

  1. #1

    Writing Experience Relating to Number of Drafts in a Book

    I just finished the first draft of my 4th book and will let it sit for a month or so, since experts recommend that. However, I did come up with new ideas for the second draft before finishing the first draft, and wrote them down shortly after completing the first draft.
    I have a lot of ideas. I feel like I will not have to write as many drafts as I did with my previous books. For those, I probably wrote hundreds of drafts. I think part of it was that my writing hadn't matured that much.
    It was not until I was almost 25 that I was able to produce writing strong enough to get great overall ratings and reviews on sites, not just good or decent. It has been a few years, and I have a feeling that I likely won't have to write hundreds of drafts for my current WIP.
    Of course, I know that no one can tell me their guesses on how many drafts I would be able to write at max. But I did do some research on expert, top, and bestselling writers who were able to complete, like, 6 drafts of their works and then were ready to submit them for publishing. A lot of them can also produce multiple books at the same time.
    I'm not saying that I want to follow their leads, although I do want to learn to write 2 books at once. I would do one draft of one story, and another draft of another story.
    Anyway, is it normal for experienced writers to be able to write a few drafts of a book and then be able to call it finished? I wouldn't really call myself a super-experienced writer, despite studying the craft for almost 10 years. But I do feel I have more experience with prose writing than others who are still in their 20's.
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  2. #2
    What a great idea for a topic! As I am moving towards the completion of my first draft of my first novel, I have been thinking about this concept of how many drafts is the right amount of drafts a lot. Right now I have no idea what a second draft entails or what the redrafting process even looks like. I only imagine editing and perhaps some splicing and dicing of a few sentences or paragraphs. Also, responding to beta readers’ suggestions. However, you mention coming up with new ideas. Are these new scenes? Added conversations? Extra foreshadowing? Or what?

    One thing I hope to ascertain from the responses on this thread is the scope of changes people make in their subsequent drafts, and why they feel they have to make them.
    Sometimes in the waves of change we find our new direction...
    - unknown

  3. #3
    I write multiple drafts of the PLOT. First, with a general idea of the start and end, second, one bullet point for steps between the start and end - these usually become chapters. I With that done, I decide if the subject is something I want to write, if so expand to lists of ten to twelve bullet points per chapter. I take a close look at that, and decide if there's enough meat there for a novel - I don't write novellas (at least not yet). If so, I go through the draft again to expand the bullet points to thirty or so per chapter. Then I go through it again and expand the bullet points so they take up an entire page.

    Only then do I consider writing a draft, and when I do, I follow the bullet points. Obviously, things frequently go sideways during the first draft - other characters show up, things I didn't see happening occur, but I roll with it. When it's finished I start my editing process.

    So I guess, technically speaking, I only write one draft.

  4. #4
    Wow, you're very lucky and talented.

  5. #5
    I think every writer is different. Also, every story can be different, too.

    The main thing is that you're happy with the results you get, whichever way you get there.

    Though I'd imagine that, as one gets more completed books under their belt, they get more efficient in their own unique process.

    There's a short story writer, whose name I can't remember at the moment, who mentioned in an interview that it took him several years to write a single short story (and he was being serious). So no matter how slow you think you may be, there are writers out there who do it even slower.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by indianroads View Post
    I write multiple drafts of the PLOT. First, with a general idea of the start and end, second, one bullet point for steps between the start and end - these usually become chapters. I With that done, I decide if the subject is something I want to write, if so expand to lists of ten to twelve bullet points per chapter. I take a close look at that, and decide if there's enough meat there for a novel - I don't write novellas (at least not yet). If so, I go through the draft again to expand the bullet points to thirty or so per chapter. Then I go through it again and expand the bullet points so they take up an entire page.

    Only then do I consider writing a draft, and when I do, I follow the bullet points. Obviously, things frequently go sideways during the first draft - other characters show up, things I didn't see happening occur, but I roll with it. When it's finished I start my editing process.

    So I guess, technically speaking, I only write one draft.
    That sounds like a very practical and efficient approach. I might consider being more organized in this fashion next time. I have discovered that I have become quite a panster with my first novel, but only because my only influence at the time I started was a major panster who was pushing me to start before I was ready. I don't regret that, however, because of her, I am where I am today. But, my inherent nature is to be a planner and a refiner, so that like you I would end up with one draft that was fine tuned.

    However, I'm still unclear when people talk about multiple drafts, what they are referring to. Do they mean it goes through a multple editing process? And if not, what else are they altering?

    And what is the difference between a draft and an edited manuscript?
    Sometimes in the waves of change we find our new direction...
    - unknown

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Taylor View Post
    That sounds like a very practical and efficient approach. I might consider being more organized in this fashion next time. I have discovered that I have become quite a panster with my first novel, but only because my only influence at the time I started was a major panster who was pushing me to start before I was ready. I don't regret that, however, because of her, I am where I am today. But, my inherent nature is to be a planner and a refiner, so that like you I would end up with one draft that was fine tuned.

    However, I'm still unclear when people talk about multiple drafts, what they are referring to. Do they mean it goes through a multple editing process? And if not, what else are they altering?

    And what is the difference between a draft and an edited manuscript?
    I doubt there's a standard for writing terminology.
    For me, the draft is the fully written out manuscript, and I leave it as separate files for each chapter. I then edit it numerous times until it's solid-ish. Each pass I backup in a ZIP file.

    Because I self-publish on Amazon, I then download their template and load my chapters into it. Once I have that, I insert the front-matter, the TOC, and the back-matter, then go about formatting so the chapters start on odd numbered pages and the chapter headers and scene separators are squared away. From there I do more editing passes, and finally take a look at page breaks; I try to keep short paragraphs on one page (this is just personal preference; I feel it makes reading the hardcopy easier).

  8. #8
    As a person who has some disabilities I correct as I go. 500 words per day isn't much, but it's my goal to try to keep it error free and have the least amount of drafts possible. Writing one or some fewer drafts this way is my goal.
    I would follow as in believe in the words of good moral leaders. Rather than the beliefs of oneself.
    The most difficult thing for a writer to comprehend is to experience silence, so speak up. (quoted from a member)

  9. #9
    I'm still only working on my first novel. I wrote one version of it years ago and got through three drafts before deciding I wasn't happy with major aspects of it. This last year, I rewrote the story into what I think of as draft 1 of version 2. I'm working on a second draft now (with big structural changes and a lot of scene adjustments/rewrites). I'm hoping my third draft will focus more on details in the writing. So, if I count drafts for this one novel, it will be six drafts before I attempt to get it published, and then I have no idea how many additional drafts to expect.



    Quote Originally Posted by Taylor View Post
    What a great idea for a topic! As I am moving towards the completion of my first draft of my first novel, I have been thinking about this concept of how many drafts is the right amount of drafts a lot. Right now I have no idea what a second draft entails or what the redrafting process even looks like. I only imagine editing and perhaps some splicing and dicing of a few sentences or paragraphs. Also, responding to beta readers’ suggestions. However, you mention coming up with new ideas. Are these new scenes? Added conversations? Extra foreshadowing? Or what?
    Beware, my wife is my first beta reader and her suggestions necessitated me completely rewriting the first 26K words and major structural revisions to the rest of it. It's making for a bear of a second draft, but I completely agree with the suggestions, and the improvements are significant.

  10. #10
    My "drafts" are typically just editing passes to correct technical things. On my first novel I had nine revisions of the file, but they were mostly just concentrating on one thing at a time, like nuking adverbs or toning down some overworked words. I did reduce three scenes of backstory, but that was a one-time learning thing. Now I know better than to write that stuff (at least in that way) in the first place. The other iterations of technical revision I now watch out for as I write, and what I don't catch as I write I pick up in my read-through and proofread.

    I might add a few lines to clarify something that happens, or change a sentence here and there for continuity, but essentially I write the plot and it's done. I added a scene to my sci-fi book last summer, and that was a major deal for me. I only did it because it let the MC do something dynamic, and affected absolutely nothing in the plot before or after, because I am NOT going to tinker with the plot. I spend a lot of time deciding on certain plot elements before I start, and even more as I write. I'd be more likely to mess something up with second guesses than I'd be to improve anything.
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