I am a chronic re-writer. But I have to be.
I used to not understand why I needed to do multiple drafts. I just knew that when I didn’t do major changes, things were just wrong somehow. I killed a few stories before I learned when I needed to stop, too.
See, I have learned that I write exactly like I illustrate, which makes sense. Now how I illustrate…I lay out the basic form first, then add in the characters and details about the characters, as well as some key items in their immediate vicinity. Later I might commit to putting them in an actual setting. And even after that, I’ll do shading and color. Painting is no different. It just took me a while to see that I do exactly the same thing with writing, just with words instead of lines.
Above you’ll see the way I decided to manage my drafts: With folders, arranged all neatly on my desktop.
First, I have a few organizing “drawers”, including a folder where I store useful articles and resources, as well as inspiration and whatever else. There is also the “Round File” which is where my old files go pending resurrection. “Just Started” is where odds and ends meet and mingle; I may pull bits and pieces from this, or I may use an idea in full or in part during the writing process. Last is the “Resting Stories” folder, which used to be where I put work away in between drafts, but currently acts like a zone in between “Just Started” and “Round File”.
Now, comes the proper line-up.
- First Draft Folder
- Just what it says on the tin, the first draft is pounded out here. In large part, this is to remind me that I’m working on ONE project. I have to write 2,000 words per day on this file. Most of the time, I’m good at keeping this. The book gets a placeholder cover to keep me motivated. While writing this draft, I often look over the previous day’s words to fix basic grammar and spelling, maybe adding in a little bit here and there, but not deleting. At the end, if I’ve made decisions which alter the whole document (like changing a name) I make those changes to the best of my ability.
- When the draft is complete, I nudge it over to the Heavy Edit. But I don’t do the edits yet. The next step is…
- 4-6 Week Wait
- Time is the difference between what you think you see and what really is there. I’d argue that if you have a person who really gets your writing and knows how to work with it, you could skip this wait and send it over to that person. However, I don’t think too many of us have that person. I don’t. Least not one who has contacted me. So the wait period exists. The cover gets ignored. During this time, I work on another project (like a book which was in the Heavy Edit just before) and read other books and fall in love with a new author. That sort of thing. Anything, everything to distance myself from what I just wrote.
- The Heavy Edit
- Once the wait is over, I read a fresh book or novella which is not my own, then I grab a pen and notebook, and I read through my rough draft. As I go, I do fix awkward sentences and typo’s, because I take every chance I have to rip them out. I just don’t labor over them. My bigger focus is on the story as a whole. Where do I set the scene, where do I have disappearing settings, where do I change a character name, am I missing a scene or sequel, anything and everything that strikes me as “off”.
- The cover gets a makeover here, too, going from a rough layout/horrible photoshopping of stock images to a rough illustration.
- Like I said, I don’t write a lot of extra stuff. My first drafts are very minimalist. SO I DON’T CUT. It took me ages to learn this: I don’t listen to the CUT,CUT,CUT and MURDER YOUR LOVELIES advice so freely given by everyone who thinks they are helping the general audience. Bad, bad things happen when I cut at this point.
- In the Heavy Edit, I add 40-50% of the wordcount. Then, when that’s done and I’m cleaning it up, I subtract about 10% from the total count because I can tidy up the sentences by that much.
- 4-6 Week Wait
- Yes, it happens over again. Yes, it’s for the same reasons. Yes, I’ve been getting a lot of books read lately.
- Beta Reading (After a wait and a tidy-up)
- This is pretty self-explanatory. I find someone or a few someones to read my document. My goal prior to giving this out to anyone else is to make sure that the book is ready to be published. I promise this: If I think it’s good to go, it really isn’t. And my readers will point out why it isn’t ready. The cover likewise gets its issues fixed and decent typography.
- Once I get comments back, the book gets pushed forward into the next folder.
- Final Edit
- No matter how horrible the re-writes are, the book goes here. Only one more re-write. Period. This is the part that’s had me hung up for the better part of two years. No more. Pick the three bigger changes to make and make them. That’s all. Only three items. And of course, fix all of the grammar and spelling issues which have so far slipped my notice. The cover gets ironed out, and a mock-up of the paperback is made.
- Out for Distribution
- This is where the magic happens. Typesetting comes first, because every time I see a project in the proofing stage, I am seized by the desire to change something. Because that is me. So I change it. And re-proof. And call that good. Next for perfecting the cover, and tackling any issues (typically with the spine). Then comes the digital copies.
- From here, it’s a case of tracking down my usernames/passwords and getting files uploaded.
If you add up the wait periods and assume it takes a month for each the first draft and heavy edit, you can see that this calls for a seven-month-long production line pretty easily. Takes too long? Maybe for a lot of indies. But I’ve learned I have to follow these steps. If I don’t use the folders, then the document gets lost to the endless revisions loops. That happened to Bloodstone, and is what actually started this work flow.
So…in looking at the line-up, you will notice a couple of things. Swift Magic is my NaNoWriMo novel, for instance. And I’m putting The Shepherd’s Daughter out for sale soon. By that, I mean as soon as I get the internet to cooperate with my file uploads. 🙂 Speaking of, I just got an e-mail from CreateSpace saying my files are reviewed and ready for proofing. Hurray!
Right. Time for me to tend to other duties.
Your Dearest Nicolette.