Just completed the, I don’t know, fourth or fifth day of insane writing productivity. I’ve set a daily quota of no less than 5000 words. That’s a lot, but I’ve been beating it pretty soundly. My top day was nearly 9000 words. This isn’t to brag, because the secret to getting a lot of words written is as follows:
- Have a good outline (I do. Often with snippets of dialogue)
- Write established characters (I’ve already written two books about these jokers)
- A goal (finish first draft by end of August)
- Enthusiasm for the story (I’m dying to write the ending because I know it’s gonna be awesome)
- Dictate the first draft (in the car and in the writing studio)
I have all of that in place, so it’s relatively easy for me to blast through several chapters a day. So what does that first draft look like? Is it polished prose or is it total dreck.
Neither. It’s a first draft. Therefore, one does not judge it by its deficiencies, but by its state of being done or not done. A done first draft is awesome by definition.
I wouldn’t let anyone read it. Not even my wife.
As soon as I finish it, I’ll start at chapter one and begin fixing. Some of it is just fixing formatting stuff. The transcriptionists I use aren’t real savvy when it comes to fiction. I have to do a ton of search and replace to fix character names that the transcriptionist got wrong. It’s not a big deal though.
But the main thing for the second pass is to take this lump of clay and begin to shape it into the wonderful sculpture I envision in my head. The second draft also does not go to my wife, because in the process of that revision, I’ve uncovered a list of “broken things.”
Pass #3 fixes the “broken things.” This often requires me to rewrite some chapters or insert scenes I didn’t know I needed on the first pass. But this is a fun and rewarding process because the end state is starting to emerge. It’s like mixing a song and adding harmony vocals and guitar parts to fill out the sound.
No one reads pass #3 except me. I usually let the MS sit for a few days at this point and then go right into pass #4, re-reading, fixing, tweaking, looking for logic errors, continuity problems, asking myself “why doesn’t Shiv do this or that instead of what he’s doing?” I try to see those big issues where the reader thinks up a solution that would make everything way easier. If I find that kind of hole, I look for a place to plug it, either with a bit of dialogue discussing that option, or I introduce something to make it not-an-option.
After that, my generous, talented, smart, and lovely beta readers get a shot at it. When I get their remarks I make another pass or two of revisions. Then it goes to my editor. When I get that back, I silently weep for a while. Then I start in, accepting or rejecting his suggestions. Sometimes I have to rewrite scenes because the editor points out some heinousness that just has to be addressed. This phase always makes me mad. But I get over it, because now I’m getting close. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Another pass to fix more “broken things” that I discover during the last revision, then it goes to a proofreader. I make all those corrections and then it’s ready.
So now you know what I mean when I say, “First draft.”