I don’t know whether it’s right, or wrong, or in between, but it’s how I’ve ended up where I am right now, so I guess it counts for something!
What is a Draft?
In the context of this post, it is ‘a preliminary version of a piece of writing.’
I know this because Google says so.
Phrases like ‘first draft’, ‘rough draft’ and ‘final draft’ can get thrown around a lot when building a book.
The assumption, especially from such a charming definition of ‘draft’, is that someone will write a rough, first draft of something, then neaten it up, do one final check after it’s been proofread, and you’re done.
Please excuse me why I go laugh/cry in a corner.
The First Draft
This ties in very much to my organization. Remember on Wednesday when I showed off this tatty book?:
This is where my ‘first draft’ occurs, and its usually a loose collection of sentences, stating intent.
Then it makes it to Scrivener, I list all my scenes and short sentences to do with them, forming the skeleton of the future work.
I write down all my ideas, in the correct order, and don’t worry too much at this stage about things like believability or secondary plot elements.
All of that comes later, and cannot happen at all without the grand idea laid out.
The Second Draft
This is where I look at my loose collection of ideas and rough prose stringing point A to point B and check for structure.
Does it make sense? Can I see any major plot holes? Are the characters believable, and if not, why not? What events need to be handled slowly, what can go by fast? Is there anything I can already see can be cut? Is there something missing? (Yes, a secondary plot!)
The Second Draft is a lot more technical than just my whimsical ideas and will give me a clue as to whether I care about the idea I started from… or if I don’t.
If it turns out to be a dud, I need to change things up or start over. If I like it though, then the skeleton gets some tendons added to it, ready to go.
At this stage, I fill in my ‘draft document’ for the book, thinking about my themes, motifs, characters, all that stuff I talked about in my Organization post.
Draft 3 – The Rough One
This is where ‘the rough draft’ comes in for me.
This is where I write the scenes, beginning to end with all the bits joined up. As I reach various milestones with it, I compile it and throw it at my alpha readers for their first sneaky peeks and feedback.
It’s also the bit I find hardest of all and causes me the most stress.
After I get so far in, my brain wants to go back and edit things above. I start getting an itchy heavy feeling in my skull that things aren’t quite right, and Doubt comes to pay a visit.
Generally, the trick is to ignore it as best as possible, and go back to Goal Setting 101 – word goals for the day, or let myself edit ONE chapter. Dedication, determination and a touch of insanity tend to be the hallmarks of this phase, but it’s also the best bit. This is where the story gets all its muscle and skin.
The Edits Draft
Nice and short, at least in terms of purpose – go back through it, cut out everything that shouldn’t be there.
Drop extraneous scenes, shorten elongated sentences, think about word choice, murder excess adverbs.
I have a checklist to follow for my edits draft, and I try to read the entire book or story for each checkpoint, focusing on only one thing at a time.
Once that is done, I can then do a final edit re-read to make sure the prose still flows and the story hasn’t lost too much.
Basically, I try to give the manuscript a haircut, but still make it look cute.
The ‘Final’ Draft
Ha. Hahaha. Hahahaha.
No such thing.
The closest one may ever come to a final draft is the moment when exhaustion and burn out on a piece gets so intense, you hit the ‘I don’t care anymore’ phase.
You’ve done all you can, focused as hard as possible, given it your all. Sure, there’s probably always more to do… and given a few months away from it, one may have the energy to tweak it some more (this is why I like to leave a few weeks between ‘rough’ and ‘edit’ drafts).
‘Final’ is simply the moment where you call it done, even though you will never feel like it is done. It’s finished, but not final. And that’s ok.
Some will give their work to publishers and get the golden apple of a contract. Some will put their work into the world themselves by self-publishing. Some might shelve their work, never to be seen by any but their nearest and dearest.
I still have all that to come. But I’m getting there, I’m working on it, and one day I’ll admit being ‘finished’.
Here’s hoping that when I do, it’s to an audience who are at least entertained, for a few sweet hours. I’d like that very much.
On Monday, I’ll be chattering about another massive part of writing, and why it’s good for you – procrastination! See you then!