Hello Lovelies, and welcome back. In this post we’re going to briefly recap all the things we’ve learned about writing drafts and about revising them throughout the year. If you’ve missed any of these lessons, you can find them all linked on the blog.
Starting is the Hardest Part (I Promise)
Whether I’m writing a new blog post, a new chapter, a new scene, or even starting the year with a blank planner, somehow, that blank page is so difficult to look at.
Starting is hard. Starting is one of the hardest things you can do, no matter if you are starting a new habit, a new project, or even a new email message. There is almost nothing worse than starting a new blog series, a new product, a new scene.
Why? Well, there are more reasons than you might think.
Why Do Initial Drafts Always Suck?
I hear it all the time. Let your first draft suck. It’s okay to suck at it the first time. It’s supposed to be sucky, just embrace it.
Maybe you too, have been given this advice about writing sloppy drafts. Have you ever stopped to consider why first drafts are so terrible so much of the time?
A Zero Draft is your first attempt to assemble thoughts related to your research topic or question. It is more or less an unstructured piece of writing that flows quickly from your own mind as you reflect upon your topic, your questions, and your reading. A Zero Draft is focused freewriting, or the very next step.
Some people consider a zero draft to be an extremely detailed outline, sometimes with full scenes written and snippets of dialogue.
I personally consider any draft that I haven’t taken to completion yet a zero draft. I don’t care that I have over 50K in words into my vampire story. Until I write ‘The End’ on a project, I don’t consider it a first draft. And I have attempted projects multiple times without a successful first draft. They are all zero drafts to me until I write a full novel.
A first draft, also known as a rough draft, is the very first completed version of a piece of writing—a rough sketch of what your finished work will be like. A first draft is generally written after the outline or Zero Draft is finished and is usually done without much editing.
A first draft is a preliminary version of a piece of writing. During the first draft, the author attempts to develop the main characters and flesh out the plot ideas of their work, uncovering their overarching themes in the process.
In the first draft, you want to bring your imagination to full bear and get to know your characters and world even better. Add in setting. Fix the talking heads. Start to remove adverbs.
Get the big ideas onto the page.
Do you have a way that you like to write your books? What I mean by this is a process of getting the words down on the page?
There are plenty of other steps to getting a book written, but to generalize, there are three elements that go into drafting any piece of work. To clarify, I’m just talking about the drafting portion where you are actually trying to write this darn thing. These three elements are the time story and direction that any writer decides to write their novel. Let’s talk about each of these in a little more detail.
Are you a binge writer? There are a lot of bad connotations associated with binging anything. Perhaps you binge watch shows or you binge eat when you’re stressed. Did you know you could also binge write?
The hallmarks of a binge writer are people who get a lot of writing done in a small amount of time. If you write between school sessions, on NaNoWriMo, or participate in 10K days, you might be a binge drafter. Binge drafters generally work hard in short bursts.
Do you set daily or weekly writing goals, and consistently meet them? If you live and die by the idea that you have to write every day, you might be someone who writes slow and steady. Slow and steady writers will chunk out their work and try to reach a certain word or page count goal every day or every week. This type of novelist keeps a steady pace, pushing forward one step at a time.
Are You An Intermittent Writer?
Do you write in multiple sessions in a given day, squeezing in writing time in the in-between moments? Do you dictate on your morning run, feverishly use your phone to access your project when waiting in any line or for any reason, bring your laptop with you when visiting the in-laws, just in case they go to bed early and you can stay up to write? You might be an intermittent writer.
How Many Drafts Does it Take to Write a Novel?
We’ve gone through previous posts talking about the drafting process and specifically about zero drafts and first drafts. If you haven’t by now you’re probably starting to wonder just how many drafts will it take?
As with many things the answer is going to be that it depends on a number of factors.
Brandon Sanderson Drafting Method
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.
Terry Goodkind Drafting 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.
We’ve been talking about drafting your novels and specifically about getting through multiple drafts of your novel (if that’s your jam). What we’re really talking about is the process of revising your novel. Revising sounded too much like editing for my liking when I first started doing it, and editing just sounds awful and scary when you don’t know what you’re doing. I started calling it writing another draft and that was somehow easier to initially bear than editing or revising.
The good news is that there is a way to go about getting your revisions done with minimal backtracking and without having to worry about too many things at each stage. Today, I’m going to tell you about how to do your revisions in a way that makes sense and will lead you to less and less revisions with each pass. You can use this method whether you want to write in one draft or in multiple drafts. You are going to work from big problems to small problems. If you like my method, you can then download a free checklist at the end.
Last week we started talking about revisions and how to get through your draft process. I gave you an overview of how to work through a revision in a way that makes sense so that you are not working against yourself the whole time. I gave you a free revision checklist and if you have not picked that up yet go ahead and grab that now. We are going to go in depth this week into the first item on that checklist which is making a solid first draft.
We’ve been talking about revisions and how to get through your draft process. A few weeks ago, I gave you an overview of how to work through a revision in a way that makes sense so that you are not working against yourself the whole time. I gave you a free revision checklist and if you have not picked that up yet go ahead and grab that now. We are going to go in depth this week into the second item on that checklist which is to do a complete read-through and take notes.
Revise from Most Problematic to Least
We’ve been talking about revisions and how to get through your draft process. A few weeks ago, I gave you an overview of how to work through a revision in a way that makes sense so that you are not working against yourself the whole time. I gave you a free revision checklist and if you have not picked that up yet go ahead and grab that now. We are going to go in depth this week into the third item on that checklist which is to work from most problematic to least.
Revising as Many Times as You Desire
We’ve been talking about revisions and how to get through your draft process. A few weeks ago, I gave you an overview of how to work through a revision in a way that makes sense so that you are not working against yourself the whole time. I gave you a free revision checklist and if you have not picked that up yet go ahead and grab that now. We are going to go in depth this week into the last item on that checklist which is to make as many other passes as you desire.
Ultimate Guide to Alpha and Beta Readers
An alpha reader is one of the first people who gets to read your book. Those who read your really, really rough manuscript and give you feedback. They have to be built of sturdy stuff if they are to read something so rough. This can be your family and friends. They can be trusted readers of your series. You can expect decent feedback from them, or you can just get general feedback and have them hype you up.
Beta readers see your manuscript after it’s been worked on and is closer to publication. Those who read your touched up manuscript to give you feedback after you have fixed the mistakes the alpha readers pointed out.
When Do You Need a Critique Partner?
When you’re rewriting your manuscript and figuring out how to make your second draft even better than your first, sometimes it’s not enough to work on your own. As a writer, it’s hard to read your own story with an impartial, critical eye. If you feel you’ve reached a wall with your writing, where you either can’t figure something out on your own, or you think it’s as good as you can make it by yourself, it might be time to consider looking for a critique partner.
The Drawbacks to Publishing a Series
It’s all the rage. Publishers and readers alike agree. Writing novels in a series is where it’s at. But did you consider that for an author, this may be a hard bill to pay? Have you considered that there might be drawbacks? This week, we’re talking all about the drawbacks to writing a series from the author’s perspective.
This week’s blog post is about fast drafting your series. Last time we talked about fast drafting your novel and why you might use it as a strategy. This week I want to deep dive into the specifics of how you go about accomplishing this type of drafting.
It’s been a long year and there has been a lot for me to say on the topic of writing drafts and taking them from one draft to another. I hope you have enjoyed this year’s topics, and I am excited to be announcing next year’s topics very soon, so look out for that coming early next year.