Right now I am in the third and final draft of Spirit of Orn, and so far it's been a grand adventure that I wouldn't pass for anything. Ratifying drafts are apart of the writing experience and, therefore, should be taken seriously. I say this because drafting helps to catch a lot of things (obviously) but also teach you about your writing process. For instance, early on with Spirit of Orn I noticed that the way I drafted my characters was very reactionary, meaning they performed actions but didn't think very much about what they were doing. So in my second draft I made sure to change that and give them more body. Likewise, in the third draft I'm taking a look at the structure and plot, taking care of idiosyncrasies. So-on, so-fourth. So here I've attached three milestones of what I've learned from my drafting process. Like all good things, it comes in threes. I hope you enjoy!
1st Draft: Principal Content
When I first wrote Spirit of Orn, it was awful. I'm not afraid to say it, but that's what most first drafts amount to. It spanned only 76 pages in my word processor, single spaced, barely passing as a novella. Yet despite being inconsistent, with cardboard cutouts for characters, what I had was principal content. Principal content, is the meat of your book. Sometimes this is only notes in book margins, other times it's fully completed chapters. Your first draft however is not an outline. An outline and the draft are two very different things, the reason being that in a draft all your characters are still interacting with one another. Generally the most important thing to get out of a first draft is the movement of the plot. Earlier in one of my posts I talked about Beats. Draft #1 is all about setting up your beats and overall structure of your story. Your dialogue may not be as fleshed out, but here is where you lay out the ground work of their full weight.
2nd Draft: Drawing Them Out
After getting things sorted out in your first draft you'll find that what you have to work with won't cut it. In fact, it'll almost look like garbage to you. Believe it or not, that's a very good thing because it shows that you are solidifying your conception of the characters that are in your book. No longer are they going to be these flimsy, undetermined husks, but now they have feelings, or less feelings if they were over reactive before. In the drafting process you are looking at about a 2-3 year process, depending on how long the novel is and if you are writing with someone else. It will be the longest of any drafting period, simply because you'll be adding so much material. Spirit of Orn nearly tripled in size after I finished my second draft, so don't worry if it gets longer. Also what you'll find is that the earlier material of your book will feature poorer quality writing, but this is only because in the process of writing, you will have gotten better and more comfortable with your character's expressions. Also, you yourself will have changed. Maybe if you wrote a section out of anger previously, when coming back to it you'll realize that it didn't fit your character. Embrace that! These are not your characters solely. Characters should be allowed to act on their own without your interference.
3rd Draft: Preparing a Manuscript
Finally, after the second draft is completed, My first suggestion is getting a second pair of eyes to read it, preferably a Substantive editor. These editors are trained at looking at a story, absorbing it's plot and characters, and finding in them the inconsistencies that will interfere with the book. This is not considered entering into the final editing stage however. After that editor gives you back your book, you then need to write in those changes. The key thing, the most important aspect of the third draft to consider is your time line. A third draft should be completed in less than 5 months. The reason for this is that all writers will be unsatisfied by their writing no matter how polished the final product is, so it's important not to dwell on the book too long. Setting milestones helps. If you can carve out say, an hour of your day, per day, each month and agree to do a chapter per two weeks, then you'll be set. Once the third draft is complete, you can feel confident that it can see a Mechanical editor. Once you get it back, sit down have a glass of wine...
You just finished your first book!
Now that you are done, get ready for the next step: Publishing. In the next few weeks I'll be starting on this, so keep your eyes peeled every Tuesday and Thursday for updates. I hope you've enjoyed this series as much as I have had writing it. See you next week!