Monday, November 29, 2010

How "Drafty" Do You Write?

Usually I don't get to my blog or have a chance to visit my friends' blogs until later in the day.  But I have a weekday off from work for a change.  If you're not a Pennsylvanian you might not realize most of the state closes schools on the first day of deer season.  If we didn't we wouldn't have half our students and teachers in school.
This weekend I finally finished the short story I'm writing as promotion for the upcoming release of the second book in The Futhark Chronicles, Beyond the GateTamarin's Story will be available shortly in a number of locations but not yet. 
When I say I finished the short story I meant I completed the first draft.  Writing a first draft for me is like a train rolling downhill.  It goes really fast but it's kind of scary and out of control.  It gets to its destination quickly but it's not really graceful or pretty.  I have a friend who writes first drafts I think are nearly ready for submission they're so close to perfect. Not mine.  I write it as fast as I can knowing clean up comes later. First though I put it aside and let it simmer.  My mind may turn to it but I don't look at it for a few days.
A few days ago I posted about slashing scenes and before that I wrote about 'weak words.'  The second draft is all about that.  After letting it alone for a few days, I'll look at my short story or novel with fresh eyes.  I'll read completely through it, making notes.  I'll check for flow between scenes, repetition, POV problems, and slash some scenes.  If it's a novel I might completely remove a subplot or a secondary character to make the story flow better and keep the writing tighter. 
This is the time to read dialogue out loud.  Is it stiff? Does it even make sense? Do I need it all?  Do I need all the dialogue tags?
I'll try to do away with those adverbs and use stronger nouns.  Then I have check for my 'Pennsylvania Dutch.'  If you lived in central PA you would know what I'm talking about.  I don't speak 'Dutch' but it does sneak into my writing a little bit.  'PA Dutch' is a way of speaking that puts the words in an awkward arrangement.  Here's an example of one of my morning chores. 
"After the trash man came I brought into the garage the empty cans."
Looks really weird when you see it written.  Usually I don't write anything as blatant at the above but I still have to search for word arrangement problems. 
Hopefully during this stage I will catch inconsistencies with character appearances, timing problems, and characters speaking out of voice.  If the first draft is really rough, I entirely retype the second one. Then it's ready for submission.
Before publication, my editor will return it at least once with her comments for edits and we'll work those out with both of us compromising( usually it's me) until it's as ready as we can make it.
Galleys will come back to me a few months before the actual book is released.  Usually they have a very tight time schedule of only days.  I love reading galleys.  I found only four typos in the galleys for Beyond the Gate.  The editors and readers did a great job.
So how many drafts do you do before submission?  How many times does your editor ask for changes? If you're self-published, do you have readers who help you with edits and changes?


  1. How many drafts I do depends. The ms I'm currently working on is in it's fourth of fifth draft form and may need another one before it's ready for crit.
    But this book is kicking my butt...

  2. Hi Susan - I don't have a set amount. I just write as many as are needed.

  3. Vickie, I've written books where I've done up to five rewrites and once at an editor's behest. Then she rejected it anyway.
    Ivy, I've been doing better with the number of drafts since I started totally retyping the second one. It takes me longer but I find it easier to make big changes.

  4. Glad you're finding ways to make it easier for yourself. Go you. Rah.

  5. I went through a lot of drafts with my first book! My publisher sent it to me twice - first round of edits and corrections after the review copy was printed. (And some of those edits were things I was supposed to edit but didn't!!)

  6. When I moved here from Philly as a young teacher (low those many years ago) I thought my husband was lying to me about why we had the Monday after Thanksgiving off. I wouldn't believe him for days. Deer season? Really?

    I laughed at your "Dutchy" expression. I had many Pennsylvania Dutch relatives I would visit when I was young. One time while I was visiting my great aunt, she called up the stairwell to me, "Throw me down the stairs a pillow!"

    As a nine year old I was horrified. I thought she was asking me to actually throw HER down the stairs. My mother had to translate that she wanted me to get her a pillow from one of the upstairs bedrooms. Scarred me for life. ;)

  7. I didn't have culture shock when I moved here from northern PA, Ava. The high school I went to gave us two days off and we'd still have tons of students out for the rest of the week.

  8. I guess you didn't agree with everything the editor wanted, Alex.
    There were only a few things in my latest experience with a new editor that I really stuck to my gun on.

  9. Lots of editing comes between first draft and final, but not many major changes happen (other than that pesky 1st chapter. For that I usually have 3-4 drafts).

  10. I'm an edit as I go person. I write a few pages - I go back and edit. I think I ultimately make 100 passes through the manuscript before it goes to the editor.

  11. Tara, I know what you mean about that first chapter. In two of my books I ended up throwing it out ocmpletely and making chapter two the first one.
    I used to edit as I go, L.Diane, but I wasn't getting anything finished so now I write like crazy until I get to the end.

  12. I'm only recently done with the first draft of my first novel, but I have 3 edit passes planned and will likely end up with more before it's done. The first pass is just to fill in holes I left during a really messy first draft. Second will be for grammar and syntax, third is planned to make sure all the subplot is deftly woven. Then after reader feedback, I'll consider suggestions for any additional edits.

    During the first draft, I have to really work hard to *not* edit. Like you, if I start doing that then, not much gets finished.

    And haha, we too have first day of deer season out here as a day off from school whether it's scheduled holiday or not.

  13. Madison, your process sounds a lot like mine.

  14. I'm still learning what my process is. At the moment, I like to get the first draft down without a whole lot of going back and checking. Then I read through - make an outline. Then I fix plotholes (my least favourite part!). Then the fun part - slash and polish. Then add in description - then slash & polish again! Repeat as needed :)