There are about as many ways to write a novel as there are writers. Some plot extensively, some write with no idea where the story is going at all. Some use story boards or index cards or even dartboards.
I write multiple drafts.
The first draft of any book I write generally takes about twenty days of writing, depending on how many pages long the book is. I write short contemporary so I write ten pages a day until I get to my target word count. I’ve had a lot of people express surprise or even envy at my writing pace. Well, I must confess, I have a secret.
The first draft is complete and utter garbage.
I mean it. It’s terrible. Really, REALLY bad.
My secret is? I don’t actually finish that book until I’ve revised, rewritten and edited that draft six or seven or eight times. Yes, you read that right. I write that puppy over and over again. So the first draft might be quick, but it really takes me about three months to actually have a half descent manuscript finished. And that’s for a two hundred to two hundred fifty page manuscript.
The first draft is really only there to get the basic story written. I develop the characters (their traits can and do change), nail down the conflict and figure out how to torture my H/h as much as possible. I try very, very hard NOT to edit during this draft. My only goal is to write the story as fast as possible. I find that if I turn off my internal editor my creative side comes out big time. I’ll have lots of time to edit in successive drafts.
Speaking of editing? The second draft cleans up the big stuff. I make sure the continuity flows well, fix the character whose name I switched to something else half way through the first draft, and make sure the conflict, external and internal is cohesive.
The third draft is devoted to pacing. No dragging scenes, and no sprinting through important growth moments. I make sure the ending is sufficiently long, emotional and romantic.
Speaking of romantic, the fourth draft ensures the sexual tension is kept high throughout.
The fifth and sixth drafts nab all those little mistakes I seem to make no matter how hard I try not to. Grammar problems, spelling errors, missing words and awkward sentences.
At this point I put the manuscript away for as long as I can stand it, a couple weeks at least. The longer I can stay away from it the better. I often begin the process with a first draft of a new novel, then go back for draft number seven on the old one.
Draft number seven hunts for the emotion, the romance, the story. Do I like this book? Would I buy it myself? If I can’t answer yes, it’s time to figure out what’s missing and fix it.
Once this is done, I usually start the submission process or write a pitch in anticipation of pitching the book at a conference.
Let’s pretend I’ve gotten that request, either from a query letter or editor/agent appointment. I always, ALWAYS read the manuscript again before sending it out.
I should mention here that when I’m in all those drafts, I use a million small post-it-notes. I make notes on them and stick them all over the place so I know where I need to do something. I’m also a compulsive goal setter. I set goals for each book, each month, each week, each day and sometimes goals for the morning and afternoon. I love Book-In-A-Weeks and Book-In-A-Months. They’re the perfect program for writers like me who write in multiple drafts.
Writing in drafts has an upside for after you submit your book, too. I received my first revision letter not long ago. Along with it came a deadline. I found that because I was used to making wholesale changes to the book through earlier drafts, working through the revision letter wasn’t that hard. I simply applied the same process. Started with the big changes and worked my way through the drafts.
Writing in multiple drafts isn’t for everyone, but for anyone who like to give it a try I can honestly say I like my writing drafty.