I've often been asked how I wrote a full book, with the reader holding a copy of The Demon's Return in their hand. If they only saw the many drafts before that, it would be a lot heavier to carry.
It's intimidating to think about. 92,000 words in the final book.
But when you hear it took over one million words typed and hand written to get to that point, well, that makes it sound much harder.
However, breaking it down step by step, draft by draft, was the best thing that I could have done. Let's explore the drafts below.
the early drafts - setting the story
Have you ever written a sentence and gone back and immediately updated it so that it sounded so much better. Did this take up a lot of your time? If not, don't worry, I was the exact same way in my early drafts. It wasn't until I read the below quote where I realized what I was doing wrong.
"No one is going to read you first draft. It's you telling the story to yourself."
I decided to skip the fancy words, the show don't tell method, and be straight to the point in what was happening in the story. Incredibly, it started to flow. I began to develop scenes that were visually appealing in my head, but so simple on paper. The first draft went by quickly, short but to the point. I printed it out and read it. I had so many moments of going what the heck was I thinking here? Or even, this part is brilliant.
Draft two, let's take out some scenes and add new ones. Let's make sure this chapter makes sense after this chapter. Let's fix that time skip. Print out and edit.
Draft three, the flow is not quite there yet. I need to add a short scene here. There we go, now it's starting to make sense. I got a story that works from beginning to end. Let's print out and edit this one to! Am I done?
No where close.
the middle drafts - pacing and flow. does this make sense?
Wait a minute. Did my main character really just say that? Did he really just do that? That doesn't make sense with his personality I envisioned.
Hold on. This chapter is three times as long as the one before and after. There's way too much happening in here. I need to break it down.
Hmmm, lots of talking scenes and then a fight scene out of nowhere. Need to build up to this. A story should not be boring for 75% and action packed for 25%. It needs to flow.
These middle drafts are where I ask the below questions:
Does this make sense?
Is this believable?
Is this part even needed?
Can I see my characters doing this?
Does the world building make sense?
It's a crucial point in the writing process and one that I enjoy. Dedicating drafts to ensuring that the sequence of chapters is easy for the reader to go through helped calm me down immensely at the beginning.
the almost there drafts - perfect prose
The best story tellers know when to give the reader information and when to guide the reader in figuring out what was happening on their own. They create visuals, allowing the reader to see the story in their mind, desperately hoping for more. The right words make the biggest different here, which I why I dedicate entire drafts to perfecting the prose.
All the worry about the actual story has been taken care of. These drafts are where I concentrate on really engaging the reader and triggering their emotions based on the scenes. Using subtle words during fight scenes to create the horror of battle or describing the character's heart beating out of their chest as they are in perilous situations connects the reader to the characters, as though they were in the scene themselves.
It's a line by line edit that can be really daunting. It also needs to be balanced so that the reader is not too overwhelmed with information. This took me two drafts to complete.
My main goal here is to create a story that I myself would like to read.
the professional editor drafts - developmental and line
I've done it. Completed a manuscript that's the best thing since Harry Potter, at least in my eyes.
Well, not quite. Reading is subjective and as such, second, third, fourth and many more opinions matter. Before we get there, I need to have someone look this over. Someone that knows books. This is where I bring in an editor.
A developmental edit is similar to the pace and flow edit I've detailed above, but from a different point of view. A professional editor is looking at the manuscript for the first time. A new set of eyes is a perfect way to establish whether the story flows and keeps the reader engaged.
Once complete, the editor recommends changes. I was lucky my first time. My editor, highly experienced, made very few suggestions, something that he was surprised about. Guess as a first time writer, he was not expecting that much effort into an early manuscript. I made the changes accordingly and then sent it back.
The line edit was very important. It is a letter by letter edit of the grammar, punctuation and wording used. A typo is one of the last things that an author wants to see in their final work and a line edit is the perfect way to get rid of them.
the final draft - how do I feel now?
Once all the grammatical errors have been taken care of, hopefully, the draft is complete. Now it's off to beta readers for initial input or straight to the publishing company.
There's still much to do with formatting the manuscript, marketing and the cover art, but the hardest part is done.
It's a long process, with many steps along the way, intimidating when starting. However, breaking it down into individual goals and concentrating on different elements that make a great story helped get me to the end. Completing each step was motivation to get the next one started as soon as possible.
When you hold that book in your hands, seeing your name as the author, it makes you realize how much it was worth it.
Cheers to your writing journeys!