A first draft. What is it? Well, it’s a draft…that came first. For every writer, it could mean something different. I’m coming to the end of my first draft of my ghost story, so I wanted to address what it means to me.
I asked my fellow writers on Twitter what the first draft for them consists of, and the answers varied;
For me, a first draft is similar to the latter response.
I write the basics of a story. Whatever comes into my head, goes down and I try to make it make at least a little bit of sense. There is dialogue in there, I try to get most of the location data down, and there is some description there – mainly so I don’t forget what I was thinking at the time. It’s the bare bones of a story, but it’s way off being finished. These, for me, have ended up being around 40-50K words
Once I feel like I’ve finished the story, it’s time to go back over it. That’s when the V2 file is created.
This second draft is used to figure out if everything is in an order that makes sense. For The Next Stage, this meant adding some extra chapters in between others. In this case, I added more detail and events revolving around one of the characters – the President. This allowed me to add other events later on in the book and added – I feel – to the book’s depth as a whole. This draft is also used to add extra dialogue and build on the description already in there. Making the world a bit more rounded and believable.
Once the second draft is done, it’s time for another read through. This V3 draft is used to correct any spelling or punctuation that has been missed or entered correctly. It also serves for me to make the story read a little better. In the first couple of drafts, the story might not read and flow as I would have liked, and if that were sent out to readers, they might find it disjointed and difficult to read. I may end up reordering paragraphs or even chapters to improve the story’s flow during this stage.
V4 – now we’re getting into almost finished territory. This draft consists of reading through once again and double-checking everything I’ve done in the last few drafts. For The Next Stage, this was also the stage in which I ensured that the story’s timing was how I wanted it. Because I had dates and times on each chapter, I needed to make sure that they were set in the right period and any mention of date/time was correct as per the chapter heading.
After doing all these checks, I was finally ready to let someone else read it, *Enter Alex*
Once she had read through, enjoyed the story, and pointed out any issues that she noticed, I was ready for another draft, but this one was slightly different.
The next version I created wasn’t done in Word. This draft was done by uploading to KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) and creating the book as a paperback, as I would like it when it’s finished, and ordering a proof copy. I found this stage immensely satisfying as I could hold the book in my hand, and the whole thing felt a bit more real.
Armed with post-it notes and highlighters, I went at the proof copy. I read through and marked it up as I went. I was surprised at the amount of stuff that I marked up in it, despite having been through it 4 times before. There was something about having it physically in my hand that allowed me to find errors easier – I’ll definitely be doing this again with my next book, and I recommend it as a way to edit if you can.
After doing this read-through, I decided that I had found all I could and was ready for publishing.
Self-publishing means that, for the most part, I rely on my judgment as to whether a book is ready to publish. It’s so easy to sit and repeatedly go through it until my eyes bleed. But at some point, you’ve just got to say “f!ck it, it’s done.”
This method is just what works for me. As I said at the top, different writers have different approaches. You’ve just got to find what way works for you. You can look to others for advice and what they do, but ultimately it’s your decision to find what’s best for you.
Thanks to everyone for their input into this post.