I’ve said it before, I’ll probably say it again: Being a writer means having to switch hats between different professions. A great example is the move between writer and editor. Both are equally difficult to pull off, but of the two, writing is the more enjoyable activity.
Editing is a necessary evil, and it’s necessary for us to do it as well as asking someone else to help. The reason it is important for us to edit our own writing is that sometimes it keeps us from making a fool of ourselves. These are the easy mistakes to catch “bump instead of bumb” or “there instead of their” or a personal one that I do all the time: “that the”. Finding these on our own helps us keep our pride and dignity. Two very important things to a writer (though don’t ask us to admit, why would we do that?).
Another important reason is because the first draft usually falls into one or two categories:
- It’s good, but needs some work
- It’s fine, but needs a lot of work
That’s a fact, even published writers have the same situation. They just also have people they can afford to help them with all the drafts afterwards to upgrade it to “Awesome!” (We hope.) I, on the other hand, not being published yet or even loaded with cash (looks to the sky in the hope some will fall into my lap), have to do it myself. I hate it, but I do it. Usually I end up with about 5 to 6 drafts before I call it good and try to pander it out with my hat in my hand. Here is how the drafts break down:
First Draft – The Raw Draft
I do very little editing as I just want to write and create. The most that happens here is that when I re-read the latest edition to get back into the story and I find the really easy to spot screw-ups.
Second Draft – Fix the stupid, Smack your forehead draft
Here I fix the mistakes that really shouldn’t have happened and maybe a little sentence restructuring if there is a glaring, jacked up, bad sentence. Run-on and incomplete sentences may be fixed here. I run my story/novel through StyleWriter to find the passive verbs and the grammar issues that always props up in my writing.
Third Draft – The Hack and Slash draft
Admit it, we all do it, we add a paragraph/scene/sentence that sounded cool when we wrote it, but in reading the damn thing over two times makes you realize it really doesn’t fit and the reader really won’t care. Or the paragraph that was written as if you were creating an essay instead of a story needs a complete overhaul. I can usually take out a good 300 to 500 words in this draft to make take it from good to really good.
Fourth Draft – The merciless, don’t hold back, let the story have it draft.
I’m going to be the killer with the pen (I hope) and just cut out the unnecessary without any remorse… okay, a little remorse depending on how close I am to the story itself. Since I can’t read red pen, this usually leaves my draft looking like a drag racing row where the tires burned into the pavement. Sometimes, though, this draft isn’t quite so bad because the initial first draft fell into the It’s good, but needs some work category.
Fifth Draft – The Show it to Others draft
Feeling relatively confident, I send it to the people I’ve asked in the past to read my stuff though I may ask one or two new people to do a review. I’ve managed to find a select group of individuals who won’t try to blow smoke and say “It’s great” without any feedback beyond that. Don’t get me wrong, I have a few that do and I send it to them when my ego has taken a recent hit, but still, it’s only useful for that purpose alone. For the others, I send it to them to get constructive criticism. I tell them don’t hold back, let me have it. Sometimes this ends up being the 4th draft, but not always.
Sixth Draft – The Finished Draft (I hope)
This is where I hold my hat in my hand, sit on the corner and start sending the bad boy out in the hope that someone will take pity on this poor writer. It’s yet to happen, but one day it will…
So those are the drafts that I go through. I know it’s not as awesome as the already famous people, and in theory if I was to send the first or second draft to a professional editor from the get go I’d end up with less drafts, but to be honest, even when I do get published, I’ll probably go through the same sequence because it’s comfortable.
That, and I do have my pride after all…
Oh, and by the way, 12:23 is currently in the Fourth Draft, yay me.