Brandon Sanderson Drafting Method

Hello lovelies, and welcome back to the blog.

Last week, I talked about how many drafts a writer needs. As with everything, it depends on a number of elements. I wanted to provide a contrasting sort of comparison between writers who go through many drafts versus writers who go through few drafts.

Brandon Sanderson is a writer who goes through many revisions. He talks about this over several years during his BYU class lectures on YouTube, and I wanted to distill his process down from several videos, which I will link at least one of them in the description for the podcast and below this blog article for anyone who wants to hear him talk about it more in depth.

Keep in mind that these are notes I’ve taken over several years as his own methods have changed. 

Draft 0

Get the book written as fast as possible. This is largely a plot draft. As he’s writing the draft he’s also keeping another document and adding themes, dropping characters in the middle of the draft, and keeping this secondary document that he’s taken notes on about how he’s changing the draft and the chapters as he’s going.

Draft 1

Almost the same day, he starts the next draft, working on the notes he’s already written about in the secondary document for the zero draft. This draft becomes a continuity draft. He’s starting to fully flesh out the character arcs.

Draft 2

Start to polish the manuscript. He’s adding in setting, fixing the talking heads, starting to remove adverbs.  He wants to find more powerful descriptions while cutting about 15% of the crutch words and sloppy language.

After this first polish, he sends the manuscript to Alpha Readers and Critique Partners. This means his agent, editor, writing group, and his wife. 

Draft 3

This is the long slog. Fixing all the things that the alphas and critique partners are coming back with. This is where fundamental changes need to be made. This is often the hardest draft to write.

Draft 4

Another polish. This is for dialogue and making sure that the viewpoints are clear.

After this draft, he will send the manuscript to Beta Readers and back to his editor. These Betas are often hand selected and hardcore fans who know the piece of work that Brandon is writing.

Draft 5

When Beta feedback and comments from his editor come back, he incorporates those comments into the manuscript. At this point, the manuscript is almost complete.

Draft 6

Brandon does a round of Copyediting in conjunction with his Publisher.

Draft 7

Brandon also does a round of Proofreading in conjunction with his Publisher.


Brandon Sanderson may be an extreme example of when a writer has a lot of drafts. Not every writer wants or needs this many drafts to write their book. Next week, we will explore Terry Goodkind’s drafting method, who said he basically publishes everything he writes as-is.

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