Draft 1: JOY Enamored with my shiny new idea, I'm off to the races: outlining, researching, and quickly sitting down to write. I write until I run into a plot barricade, then stop for a quick pit stop of research and more outlining, and then off on another no-holds-barred sprint of drafting. There's also character and voice development, but the first draft is primarily about PLOT. What happens in this story? And a mad head-long rush to THE END. Each week, I'll polish up one or more chapters to send to my awesome crit group. They keep me hyped and moving forward, as well as pointing out pitfalls along the way.
Draft 2: PAIN Starting over, I rewrite the beginning, usually dramatically. The ending usually needs a serious rewrite as well. The story has evolved as I've written it, so I painstakingly march through the entire MS, finding craft, plot, and character issues. Sometimes entire sections have to be rewritten or cut. Sometimes a character is deleted, or a new one added. I'm shaping and molding the story as a whole. I fold in all the crits from my crit group, as well as various other crits I've collected along the way. Then I send it off for a whole novel critique (or two) from a trusted crit partner.
Interlude: WAIT Research something else. Draft something else. Remove the WiP completely from my brain for a month. Maybe two.
Draft 3: GOING DEEPER Hopefully I'll have feedback which will help point out some basic flaws in story or characters. I'll incorporate those, and then look in-depth at several key aspects of the novel to see if I can take the story to a higher level. For my current WiP, this includes things like:
- does my MC's internal and external conflicts get resolved in a satisfying way?
- do my secondary characters all have meaningful stories of their own that deepen their characters?
- does the story tension keep rising throughout, or are there places where the story sags?
- are the stakes high enough? Do my characters have high human worth?
- have I plumbed the depths of the world I've created, to make it rich in detail and movement through history?
- do my characters interact with the setting in a way that shows their development through the story?
At this point I will read a couple books that are similar to my WiP and try to draw lessons from them that can be applied to my own work. I may get a couple more crits along the way.
Draft 4: POLISH
- Add/remove slang, cliches, descriptive phrases
- Check chapter beginnings and endings for drama and clarity
- Check overall voice
- Tighten up the beginning some more
- Check high frequency words
At this point I will read through the MS once or twice very quickly, maybe reading aloud to catch typos and missing words, or read silently for a quick overall check of plot holes and missing information.
Although these are labeled DRAFTS they are more accurately STAGES. A DRAFT is not a simple once-through the manuscript, but more a stage in the evolution of the novel. It took me a long time, and many revisions, before I was finally ready for Draft 4 on the MS I am now querying. I'm still in Draft 2 for the current novel, but I can see the stages ahead, waiting for me.
What does your process look like?