Terry Goodkind’s Drafting Method

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Hello lovelies and welcome back to the blog.

Two weeks ago, 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, so last week we talked about Brandon Sanderson’s many draft method, and this week, I wanted to talk about Terry Goodkind’s one-draft method.

Terry Goodkind wrote seventeen novels in the Sword of Truth series, published by Tor, and went on to publish over thirty bestselling novels, along with multiple short stories, standalone novels, and thrillers.

Keep in mind that Terry Goodkind has passed away. I have been an avid fan of his work for many years, and attended an Ask Me Anything on Facebook back in 2019 on both the questions he was asked about his writing process and his answers to those questions. You can still find this on his website at terrygoodkind.com and clicking on the AMA link at the top. While we can no longer go and ask him specific questions, I think this particular AMA provides us with certain clues, along with other things on his website, which we can extrapolate his method from.

First off, let’s start with Terry talking about writing only one draft. 

At one point Terry is asked about which scene, character, or plotline in the Sword of Truth series changed the most from the first draft to published book. Terry immediately responded, “None. Not one. I don’t do drafts. I write the book, beginning to end, period. Nothing is ever revised or changed or deleted. What you read is exactly what I write, as I wrote it, and as it comes off my printer.”

This seems like an incredible feat. For Terry to take a book straight out of his mind and transpose it perfectly to publication is the stuff of legends, and yet other well known authors, such as Stephen King, Dean Wesley Smith, and Lee Child also write using a one-draft method. 

Why was Terry Goodkind able to accomplish this?

I think a lot of this ties into a seemingly unrelated question that was asked on the AMA, which was, how long did Terry spend writing? Terry’s response to this sheds some light on something that I want to talk about after you read it.

“I write seven days a week, including holidays. For me, writing requires my full attention, all of the time. I think about the story when I lie in bed at night. I think about it when I wake up in the morning. I think about it every bit of time in between. Writing isn’t accomplished at the keyboard. The stories are ongoing all the time in my head. That is really where stories are born and grow into what you read.”

I also want you to read his response to another more related question, which is, if he knew the story, or let the story unfold as he wrote it. 

Terry says, “I know the whole story — beginning, middle, and end. I never let characters run off and do their own thing. I hired them; they are going to do as I say. The books always turn out as I had intended, although I can’t imagine ahead of time all the details and nuance of the emotions of every scene. And sometimes I have to expand on things as I go along to make the story more clear.”

 For Terry, he lived and breathed in his novel world. It didn’t mean that he wrote every single sentence perfectly, or knew every interaction exactly as it needed to be written the first time he’d attempted it. Instead, he made continual improvements to one draft as he got deeper into the story.

What was Terry’s process and how can you harness it?

Terry mentioned his process in several snippets. Let me relate a few of them.

“I get up every day (yes, everyday) and go to my desk and start working. I eat at my desk. When it’s time to go to bed, I stop working.”

“I have a story to tell and sometimes I need to give some thought as to how best to tell it. Thinking about the story is not writers’ block as such. Thinking things through is a part of the writing process.”

“For me, I’m very deliberate with every book I write. I map out the story in my head before I write it. I know exactly where I’m going. That’s not to say that opportunities don’t come along to expand on something that happens. For example, I may think that there is going to be a scene in which Richard has to fight someone. I know how it starts, the general intensity, who gets hurt, how badly, and the outcome, but I may not envision ahead of time that he throws the enemy over a table during that fight and hits him with a stuffed moose. That kind of thing happens organically as I write. You might say I envision the bones and once the entire skeleton is complete then a lot of the writing is adding flesh to the bones.”

Through Terry’s words we can see that he thought about his scenes very thoroughly before he wrote them. He sat down at his desk every day and worked on his books, whether by thinking through the next scene or by actually getting words onto the page. He ate meals at his desk, and presumably didn’t take many breaks. Then, when it was time to go to bed he called it quits and stopped working.

At no point did Terry ever mention word or page counts. He never said if he wrote a certain number of words that day it was a success. Terry loved to write books, and jumping out of bed every morning to head to his desk and write was, for him, his most sacred duty, and one which he took extremely seriously. 

Terry Goodkind’s work was incredible in that it made fans like myself feel a close connection to humanity and to all the characters he’d created within his world. His one draft process was a part of what made those characters so rich and full in all of our minds, and brought the characters and world to life on the page in a real and meaningful way. 

Almost a year after his death, I still very much mourn the loss of such a talented and accomplished author. I hope that this look into his writing process and his one draft method can serve as a help for other aspiring authors in the years to come. 

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Do you use one draft or many drafts for your novel? What other authors have you heard of that write using only one draft? Have you read Terry Goodkind’s novels, and if so, which is your favorite? Let us know in the comments below!

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