It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! founded by Alex J. Cavanaugh. Time to release our fears to the world – or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. Your words might be the encouragement someone needs. You can also join us on twitter using the hashtag #IWSG, or on the Facebook page.
A new writer recently asked me how many drafts, or revisions, did I feel we should go through before submitting. I thought a minute about my own style before answering:
“I’ll produce no less than four versions, but usually closer to seven or eight before I submit. Even then, I’ll find things I want to change. I guess most writers are never really done.”
She stared at me, perhaps in a mixture of confusion and horror. Was I too honest? I didn’t mean to discourage her. Finally, she asked, “How does that work? What do you change each time?”
So I explained:
Draft 1 – Falling in Love – This is where I start with an idea and just let the story and characters take me where they want. No preplanning. No outlining. I just enjoy the ride.
Draft 2 – This is where I go back and flesh out the characters, fill in plot holes, and make sure everything is flowing toward the conclusion I want.
Draft 3 – This is where I check my facts. Did I spell character names the same way throughout? Did I use repetition of words, phrases, or gestures that I need to adapt? This is where I’m checking for accuracy, consistency, and other issues that can distract the reader, or detract from the believability of my tale.
Drafts 4 through 7 – Most people call these line edits. This is where I scour the story for grammar, punctuation, and spelling. I usually won’t show ANYONE else my manuscript before I get to this stage. However, this is where most of us are ready for a second pair of eyes. Someone to help us identify: Is my POV consistent? Did my main character develop in any way? Am I being too cliché? Am I showing instead of telling? Is the dialogue awkward, or wordy? Do I need to clarify any action, or backstory? This is where we are polishing the manuscript, and strengthening our voice.
Additional Drafts – Hopefully, you’ve had at least one other person review your work by now. That could be family, friends, fellow writers, readers, or even an editor, agent, or publisher. The truth is, the more people you can trust to give you honest feedback, the better story you’ll be able to produce. Once you submit, the editor or publisher who accepts your work will likely suggest at least one more round of edits. While you may grow to hate your story by this point, remember it’s all in an effort to produce the best version of your creation.
Don’t give up. Don’t deny the world your BEST writing.
What do you think? How many drafts are enough? What’s your routine for revisions? When are you ready to “let it go?”