1st Drafts / 2nd Drafts / FAQ / Writing

How Do You Write?

Robby asked me this question about EYES OF LIGHTNING:

“How did you write the book? Did you write it all at once and then go back over? As you know, Dean Koontz is my favorite writer, and he writes a single page about 50 times before he moves on to the next page.”

I didn’t know that about Koontz—how interesting! But that is not how I write. The coolest thing about writing:  Anyone can write, however you like. There is no wrong way or right way. You find a writing process that works for you . . . though it may differ from draft to draft, or book to book. So many ways to choose from!

As a perfectionist obsessed with details, I could easily go the Koontz route and rewrite a page fifty times before moving on. I’ll all aglow just thinking about it. But here’s the problem—when I send the story to my test readers, they’ll inevitably tell me to delete a scene or redo some aspect of the story. It’s a LOT harder to delete a page if I rewrote it fifty times, because I’m regretting all those wasted minutes (or hours).

So I’ve learned the hard way that it’s better for me to focus on the DRAFT goal rather than a page-by-page goal. For EYES OF LIGHTNING, I wrote the first draft in eight weeks. The second book I wrote (not related to EOL), I trimmed that first-draft time down to six weeks. I like first drafts because I’m not pressuring myself as much. I’m just trying to get the words out, even if the metaphors are cliche and the jokes fall flat.

Second drafts are harder for me. I have to reread all that subpar material and try not to lose hope in the process. I have to shape the clay into something useful. I tighten the plot, delve into characters, and improve the language. Second drafts can take me two or three months.

Then I send the manuscript to my critique partner, Ellie. She reads through it and gives me her big-picture analysis which is so priceless. She can spot a plot-hole from two states away. My third draft consists of fixing all the problems Ellie found. But she gives me lots of encouragement too, so I’m excited to be nearing the end.

Next I send the story to a few test readers and my other critique partner, Pat. I incorporate their suggestions into the fourth draft.

EYES OF LIGHTING was such a long time in the making, I lost count of all the drafts. It’s been replotted, rewritten, remade. But for the final, FINAL draft, I do a copy edit. This appeals to the Grammar Nazi in me. I look for redundancies, mistakes, and formatting issues. Ellie deletes a hundred exclamation points, Pat clears up my prose, and I polish every word as best I can.

So the short answer for how I write: One draft at a time. I’ll go over and over the story as many times as necessary until I’m happy with it.

Now it’s your turn, all you writers out there. How do YOU write??

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2 thoughts on “How Do You Write?

  1. I used to edit so much that it nearly drove me crazy. Now I just draft and edit once, then send it off to a reader while I work on something else – we live and learn! 😀

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