Drafts – Are they necessary?

Posted: May 5, 2013 in Details about my books, Writing Stuff
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

All right. In an earlier post, I mentioned that I write from the gut. And if I don’t feel very good about something, I don’t post it at all. As such, I actually have about seven unpublished posts that are actually complete. They’re well-written enough, but I don’t feel right about them. Thus, I have given them the status of ‘drafts’. The weird thing is… This is the first time I’ve ever done drafts. When I write a story, I don’t really set out with the mindset: “Well, this is going to have three drafts before the final. So, it’s okay to mess up.” I write it with the mindset that I should make as little mistakes as possible, and that it will be good enough to be the final draft.

Part of the reason is that I hate rewriting things. Not because I cannot deign to see a single word of my “genius” erased from this world, but because it feels anti-progress. It’s like when a ninth grader goes back to 2+2 because he thinks he may have gotten it wrong the first time around. I like moving forward, and I feel that drafts are backwards. Now, I’m not saying that you’re a bad writer if you do drafts. Not at all. In fact, I commend you for doing drafts. This mindset only works for me because I don’t take notes, plot, or outline. I do everything ‘brashly’ and I just write. 

My first book? Who needs a plot? Am I right? My second book? Who needs a coherent plot? Now, my third book… I got it right this time. So, I guess you can say my first and second books were trial runs. They prepared me to adapt to the circumstances. I managed to come up with a plot for the third book while I was writing it, and I was surprised when it actually made sense.

DRAFTY

 

 

I used to wonder, actually, what the difference between writing drafts and editing was. I found out a year ago, though, that they are actually very different. In editing, I just change a few grammar errors, and maybe delete a few continuity errors. Then my family reads through it, deletes some thousand words worth of spelling mistakes, and it’s all set to go. However, writing several drafts of the same book means that you have to set each one ( this is from my Point of View ) from each other. I mean, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

So, you need to change either the characters, the plot, or maybe a few fights. You just need to make it different. The risk here is wasting a lot of time. It’s why writing books don’t necessarily take a year, but writing drafts will take a lot more time. It is this exact reason that I find them unnecessary. I’m not a patient guy, and while I understand the necessity of editing, basically rewriting my book does not sound very appealing. 

I know, writing drafts is different for each person. But for me, that’s what I would basically have to do in order for it to be a draft, instead of it just being an extreme version of editing. 

That’s what my thoughts are on drafts when it comes to books and actual stories. What are my thoughts on drafts when it comes to articles?

They’re actually necessary. You see, articles normally consist of about a thousand words. Maybe two thousand words, so it’s not the same as rewriting a 100k novel, obviously. And in articles, just by altering the way we say things (or by altering the tone), it could either make the article better or worse. That’s how it works with blogposts. We have to find our own voice, like with our books, in order to convince people to click the Like and Follow button.

We have to offer a unique perspective on a topic that has probably already been done before. If we can’t manage that, we probably won’t get a lot of visitors or followers. So, that’s why I think it’s helpful for blogposts. With books, I think it’s a way of dwelling in the What-ifs. If I had simply written several drafts of my first book, it would be better. Yeah, exponentially better. But I would not have been able to write Line of Corruption. It would have taken up a lot of time, and I would be too creatively drained to have written a full length novel. 

Part of the issue with this was that the core idea of Xenon Bane (my first book) was bad. And thus, no matter what I did, it would still stay that way. So, what did I do? I just wrote a new book,recycled a few names, and maybe took a few of the magical attacks from it. My point is – you have to know when to jump ship, and when to take a pen to it and cross out a few commas or add in a couple of apostrophes. There’s a big difference, I am telling you, between writing the drafts of a good book, and writing the drafts of a bad one. 

I hope you liked this post. I sure enjoyed writing about my thoughts on this whole process. I’m not telling you to give up or anything, but I’m just telling you my thoughts on this whole thing. And I’m definitely against giving up on writing altogether. Check out my post Failure is actually an Option to find out my thoughts on giving up. 

Thanks for reading this, and see you all soon!

PS: Would appreciate it a ton if you took the time to Like, Follow, and Comment. Hopefully, all three. That’d be great. Thanks again.

~J.A. Romano

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Comments
  1. amberskyef says:

    I used to have the same thoughts on drafting. I’d think, ‘What’s the point of drafting if I’m just going to have to re-write the whole thing and make it completely different the second time around? Then I’ll be in the same place!’ But it wasn’t until I started interning for a freelance editor and getting my book done for free did she blow me out of the water. The job of a re-write is seeing how you can make every single thing better. I had to do a completely new chapter one because my current chapter one wasn’t working like I thought it was–I even had beta readers (I never let family do it), but they’re not pros and couldn’t see what my editor saw. Then because I had to do a new chapter one, I had to do everything over. But because I had a freelance editor giving me this advice, I didn’t wind up in the same place. In fact, everything was ten times improved (or more) and the only thing I would have needed was basic proofreading or line editing but not content editing.

    But there writers who are gifted they can nail it on the first draft, but I only know of experienced writers who can that have published bunches of times. With short stories it’s possible, but with novels, it’s almost impossible to not have to re-write something. It is different for everyone though.

    Once you land an agent, an agent might require total re-writes of stuff. They only want potential in a story, not a perfect one, but not one so sloppily written it’s obvious you don’t care. My freelance editor, in fact, had to do so many revisions of chapters for her agent that that is when I realized nothing has to be perfect and you’ll be working harder once you’re agented or contracted than you did just doing revisions by yourself.

    But what you did was unique, and I think it takes more patience to do what you did. My current contracted book I actually started as a teen, and I never let go of the idea in spite of how bad the drafts were. As I matured, so did the story and writing, but I wouldn’t let it go, and I’m so glad I didn’t. If I had just kept writing beyond that book, it would have taken me so many novels before I found one I could write almost perfectly the first time around. Even my new novel’s draft is super crap, but first drafts are supposed to be. They are glorified outlines, but that’s why I do revision notes in the margins and then create a detailed outline for the next phase.

    • J.A. Romano says:

      Wow, congrats on all of that! That actually makes quite a lot of sense. I’m still a real amateur, so I don’t know what kinda demands an agent might make… yet. So, that is pretty interesting. Good to hear that your first novel ended up being great.

      That’s the thing. The idea for my first book was just as flawed as my writing at the time, so I couldn’t do anything to make it more than… well, mediocre. : )

      Thanks for commenting. Really appreciate the feedback, and hope to see you comment on my future posts.

  2. tktrian says:

    Good post! Must say, you’re lucky to be able to do without too many drafts 😀

    I think even here the most important part is feedback and critique. That helps the writer see where they can improve the story, where their telling does not convey what they intended to, when things are confusing, or lack the emotionality that would’ve been required for the reader to keep reading on. The feedback shows how one is still working on a draft. We’ve gotten Solus beta-read pretty darn heavily during the recent weeks and even though we’ve tweaked and polished it, the feedback shows that there’re still problems. Of course we don’t follow every recommendation, but when readers point out odd word-choices or sheer factual errors, one is just glad that they didn’t put that book out quite yet x) Also, Solus’s plot is so complicated it’s no wonder we’ve worked on it so long. Have to minimize the amount of plot holes 😛

    I wish we could lead a more or less draftless existence, but I think it’ll get better the more we mature as writers.

    • J.A. Romano says:

      Well, I’m just lucky that the plot of LoC isn’t very complicated. : ) It’s why I was initially hesitant about adding too many characters. Didn’t want to end up getting lost in my own book. That wouldn’t have been very professional of me. xD

      Have to agree on the feedback and critique. I’ve actually finished reading Ghost Ship, by the way, and I’m working on writing out my feedback.

      • tktrian says:

        Really? Wow, can’t wait for the feedback! Especially because we read it through and face-palmed a couple of times at the mistakes 😀 SEE, that was a draft! 😉

  3. dotdotquote says:

    Hmm I disagree, drafts are absolutely necessary. If a writer has several years and a good few books under their belt then they have probably gained enough experience to simply write a complete draft off the bat, but even then nothing is perfect.

    It’s especially true if you write with a vague idea of plot and characters. Surely, by the end of the 100k or so words, so much has changed from the initial beginning? I plotted EVERYTHING for my first draft and even now there’s so much I have to go back and add and change just to enable the story to make sense at all.

    In my mind, once I’ve finished this draft, I’ll have to go back and add in these pieces, I know I need to work on my description and add some semblance of verisimilitude to make the world feel alive. World-building narrative is my Achilles Heel, I simply cannot write page after page of superfluous description and I tend to skim over it to get to the character moments, but this means that it results in feeling rather thin.

    The way I see it, this first draft of mine is the skeleton. It’s reasonably well-built and strong, but it needs a little fat, a little weight. Once I’ve worked over the first draft, which will consisted of adding, rather than subtracting, I’ll send it to a friend who has agreed to give me some detailed critique. His task will mostly involved picking apart the plot and the characters, checking for inconsistencies or out-of-character moments. I imagine that the second draft will take the longest. It will involve working on all the corrections I KNOW I will need to make, many of which may be based on my friend’s critique. After the second draft, I suspect I will send it to a few other friends and collate a wider feedback. And it’ll go back and forth like that, until I’m as happy with it as I can possibly be.

    Why, exactly? It’s not perfectionism that drives me to do this, but I feel that if I’m going to write something and I’m going to put it out into the world, essentially I’m saying: This is what I have to offer. I don’t want it to be the best book in the world, that’s not possible, but I want it to be the best book that I am currently capable of writing. It’s going to take a long time and I know that, but I feel that the story, the plot, my writing and the characters deserve it.

    I find writing tips/books/guides can be a bit overwhelming, due to the sheer wealth that exists. A while ago, I came across this post and I have found it to be a great help and an element certainly worth thinking of.

    http://starsbeetlesandfools.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/what-makes-good-writer.html

    • J.A. Romano says:

      Good point. However, as I said, for drafts to be different from just run-of-the-mill editing (in my eyes) it would have to change the entire plot or at least a key aspect of it. All things considered, while the editing is brutal, I’ve never felt it necessary to alter the plot.

      That isn’t to say that my plot is perfect of course, but it’s just that I couldn’t come up with a more natural plot even if I tried. So, that’s why I don’t do drafts. Because it means that I would change the plot, and while I think I’m okay-ish at making up plots, it would end up unnatural.

      When I started the book, it was about the characters, and the plot grew around them. If I were to write several drafts, each with a different plot, then I think that would be a different book.

      I know that’s not what a lot of other, more experienced writers do, and it’s not necessarily the strict definition of drafts to completely change the plot… but that’s what I think one would have to do in order for it to be considered a draft, instead of just editing.

      So, I guess you could say that the way I edit is similar to writing drafts, but it’s just that I see it as a time consuming endeavor that would make the plot a bit meh.

      This is mostly because of the way I write. I start a story with no idea what the ending is, and then build the plot around the small tid bits of information I suddenly came up with on the spot. And whatever doesn’t fit with the overall plot… I pretty much just delete. It’s not my unwillingness to rewrite the scenes that don’t fit, but it’s just that when a scene doesn’t fit the first two times… it’s probably not a scene for the same book.

      I realize this comment ran a little long, but I hope that explains my reasons a bit more. : ) I actually admire writers that do drafts, but my style of writing just isn’t suited to ’em, unfortunately. I could force it, of course, but then I think my writing would suffer. Thanks for telling me your thoughts.

      Also, thanks for giving me the link to that site. Seems like it has some good advice to offer.

      • dotdotquote says:

        Ah okay, perhaps we’re seeing “drafts” as two different things. I consider the first draft to be the complete first version after you’ve typed the first word. The second is after you have done a first combo-over; checked for plot and character inconsistencies, scene re-writes and added more description (in my case). The third (and maybe final) is a tightening of the language and grammar and that all important polish. That is editing, yes, but to my mind the stages are drafts, each transitioning from one to the other; like caterpillar to butterfly.

    • J.A. Romano says:

      Well, yes. The way you view drafts are probably the correct way of viewing them. I just have a very… I guess unique way of looking at ’em. So, it’s no wonder you disagreed with me, but that’s how I always thought of them.

  4. C.Hill says:

    I agree with Louise. One thing I’ve never understood is the writers that go back and cut things from their first draft. I always manage to add, add, and add. Only sentences here and there that are jarring get taken out, not scenes and other important stuff. (‘Cause everything is important, y’know.)

    • tktrian says:

      But what if there was something stupid in the first draft? Or if the story changed so that the thing in the first draft just slowed it down? The writer comes up with a better way to show some important thing about the story? I can totally understand going back and cutting things from the first draft. Our WIP started too slow in the first draft, so we cut stuff out (obviously someone better and smarter would’ve written a perfect beginning so that they wouldn’t have to truncate or tweak it at all).

      • J.A. Romano says:

        Oh, I am pretty sure that that was the case with my first book. With Line of Corruption, I kind of avoided it because the only reason I made up the plot in the first place was because of the stuff I’d written beforehand. I’m probably going to remove a few things once I get into the hardcore editing.

        About Solus. I actually re-read the first Ghost Ship, and there’s some definite improvement. Great job. If that’s what drafts are like, I may reconsider my policy on ’em. : )

      • tktrian says:

        That’s nice to hear, thanks. Could you actually send us the comments today? You must be busy, but we are revising that particular bit today and tomorrow. But no pressure! 🙂

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