Even when you’re self-publishing, there are a lot of steps between “Finish Manuscript” and “Publish Novel” – namely copyediting, typo-sleuthing, formatting, more typo-sleuthing, and finally publishing. This is part of producing a professional level product. At the same time, it’s important (to me at least) to keep writing through the release of a new novel (and pretty much all the time). It keeps me focused on what’s important: moving forward, writing more. But this results in a strange juxtaposition that every writer eventually faces: the raw comparison of your first draft work and your final draft work. I’m experiencing this now as I draft Free Souls and typo-sleuth Closed Hearts.
Um, yeah. It is.
Respecting the Process
Everyone has a process. If you’re me, you have about five different processes, all of which are simultaneously evolving. But the constant is the discovery of story. Whether your discovery process is pantsing or hyper-outlining, at some point you start the creative process that brings the story into being. Then it is shaped and molded and warped until you bring forth from the chaos a story that makes sense. That shines. That people might actually want to read.
You can’t skip ahead on this process, because the story is discovered as part of the process. Just as your character has to go through the full gamut of their trials and tribulations in order to force them through their character arc, your story has to go through every step of the process to reach its full potential.
…looks something like this:
Pre-Draft: Outline. This can be anything from one opening paragraph and a concept (Open Minds) to 16,000 words of chapter-by-chapter outline (Free Souls).
1st Draft: Write like crazy until I reach THE END. Have really short descriptions, or possibly none. The emotions, the dialogue, the plot rule the day. Get it all down in a heady rush of storytelling.
2nd Draft: Look in despair upon the wreckage of the 1st Draft. Try to shape it into something coherent.
3rd Draft: Go deeper into scene setting, character development, themes and image systems. Add rich detail, backstory, and plants/payoffs.
4th Draft: Make it beautiful, in word craft and grammar. Make it fresh, in turns of phrase and more details. Fix everything that needs fixing. Publishing=DONE. Make sure the story is ready for that.
This is just an outline of my process (if I wrote a second draft, it would probably make more sense!), and in reality there may be multiple additional drafts, with crit partner feedback in between and episodes of hair-pulling and scene-stalling. There’s no reason why I can’t put plants/payoffs in the 1st Draft (and do) or make it fresh in Draft Two. But (for me at least), it takes several iterations for me to work everything I want into the story, to make sure the character motivations are clear, the themes are strong, the layering is deep. That’s the only way (for me) to create a story that is something I’m proud to share with the world.
And, as I start over (again!) with Free Souls, I’m finally beginning to accept that fact.
What’s your process?
On Monday, I’ll be posting a sneak peek of the first chapter of Closed Hearts, and Wednesday is the Launch Party! Plus the Indelibles are throwing a Beach Bash Giveaway you’ll want to check out (with a chance to win an ereader!). Next week will be a flurry of excitement and I can’t wait – but I also plan to keep plugging away at that (imperfect) first draft.
p.s. Raf gets interviewed on Doodle’s blog and spills the beans on when he first fell in love with Kira!