So… I just finished my third draft. So why am I so excited?
Well… it all comes down to the process, and the process for this book has been pretty basic, really.
First draft? Get the book done. Get the story down on paper. I had a story to tell, and I wasn’t 100% sure what it was, so I wrote it all out. I heard it said once (perhaps it was a Stephen King quote?) that the first draft is where you tell yourself the story. It’s not really intended for anyone else’s eyes. You just want to get that fella down on “paper” — warts and all.
Truth be told, I had a friend that read my story until around the 10th chapter (about a third of the final product). Initially, I didn’t have confidence that I could write, so I needed input from a third party. However, I eventually realised that external input this early into the process… it’s counter-intuitive. Feedback encourages the writer to go back and fix things – the first draft is not the time to fix things. Get it done.
If you need someone to look over your work, do it for the first few chapters, just until you are certain you’re on the right track. Then shut that shit down! Readers will give you their thoughts, suggestions, and all sorts of “helpful” feedback that will just slow you down – and some may even stop the process completely… Don’t let that happen!
The second draft? This is the clean-up draft. Work your way through from start to finish, finding all the major mistakes (grammar, punctuation, spelling, style) and look to find any inconsistencies that you can. Does this character wear red shirts every chapter, and then suddenly they are in a white shirt (crappy example, I know)? Think about whether the story makes sense. Think about the decisions your character makes, and whether or not they are realistic. Keep a separate document open for notes – as you get further into the book, you’ll think of things you need to change earlier in the book. So note them down, but KEEP GOING WITH THE EDIT. It’s always about not letting things get in the way… No distractions.
Once you’ve done the second draft, go back to your notes and apply the change you’ve listed. Now you’ve got a (more) polished version of the story you wanted to tell! Huzzah!
At this point, you have a couple of options. If you have the means, you might want to consider a developmental edit (this can also come prior to or during the first draft as well, if you need help structuring the story). This can help to ensure the story makes logical sense, has enough twists and turns, and is as exciting as it needs to be.
If, like me, you don’t have the means at this time, you can go straight to Beta Readers. This is a small group of readers (I suggest less than 10 – trust me, you’ll get what you need from 5 or 6 different readers) that you hand a copy of your polished draft to, wanting their feedback on the story overall, the characters, continuity, and all the important story components. You don’t want grammatical feedback (unless it’s a mess).
Who should they be? Well… preferably, you want people that are going to be honest. Not friends and family that will tell you that you are the beautiful snowflake that you are, simply because they’re friends and family. Of course, SOME friends and family will be honest. I’ll let you make the decision. I had some family members read it, but mostly friends and colleagues. I got a LOT of great feedback, and discovered there were several areas that really needed a lot of attention – but I also learned that my book wasn’t that bad as it was.
The third draft is where you apply this feedback. Keep in mind that some of it will be character based, so it will apply throughout the book. Some will apply to certain chapters. Others will apply to the ending. But good feedback should mean a massive rewrite (and when I say rewrite, I don’t mean you start from the beginning and rewrite the whole book, I mean that major sections are amended, deleted, or added).
My third draft took longer than my second draft, which perhaps took about as long as the first, but it was more satisfying. I could tell that each change was improving the story greatly. For me, this first book (Pyramidion) was severely underwritten. It’s fast-paced, action-adventure, so I didn’t use too much description. But I also really missed some character development, messed up one major scene, and really underdeveloped the ending. As a result, my story grew by more than 10,000 words. Many bigger writers suggest that their books shrink by 10%. Your mileage may vary.
Some may want a further edit, others may go for a second beta read, it’s really up to the writer. Me? I was (am?) happy with my book. I was convinced that it was now pretty damned good (but as with everything, could certainly always have been better – but you need to move on eventually). So my next step? Line editing. Copy editing. Whatever you want to call it. Here, your editor will clean up your prose and make it sound better, as well as fixing any awkward bits. Basically, this is the real polishing stage.
Don’t skip this. Don’t skip ANY edit. You may write well (or you may THINK you do), but nobody prints a book straight from their mind into book form. All of your favourite authors are edited. Promise. If you want good reviews, or people to actually read your book… get it edited. Professionally.
Once I’ve got that back, and I’ve made any required changes, and both me and my editor are happy? Off to get typeset. Then? PUBLICATION.
Yep. That’s why I’m excited. Most of the hard upfront work is done. It’ll take my editor one or two months to edit, but once that’s done? Publication won’t be too far away. So… I’m excited.