Friday, October 27, 2006

Book Drafts - The Conundrum

I guess this subject has been on my mind a lot lately - drafts of a novel. Not all things work for all writers, but this is one of those that I believe to be universal.

To me, it's always been obvious that as a writer you must have at least 2 drafts of a document. Yet from some conversations I've held and some opinions I've heard, there really are those who think one draft is all it takes before something is ready to be submitted to a publisher. And I am amazed they could think that!

Don't get me wrong, there probably is someone out there somewhere who can prove me wrong and write the perfect book in one draft...but the chances of that happening are millions, if not billions, to one. So that means everyone else needs more than one. Yet, over and over, from new writers, and some not so new, there comes this opinion that one will do. Well, below are the main reasons I think such a thing is not possible...

1) While some people have every phase of their book ready in an outline, or small paragraphs, or what have you, books and characters for most people have a tendency to go places not in the original plans. This is not a bad thing, in fact it is a great thing most of the time, as it imbues the book with new ideas you came up with along the way. But, when it happens, you normally make notes and then go back on a 2nd draft and incorporate these earlier into the text so there is a solid thread leading up this idea you had about 1/2 or 3/4's through the book. So, unless you are going back and fixing all this the moment you have the idea (not a good idea in itself - you can get caught in that eternal fix the first few chapters loop), you won't have a choice but to go back and incorporate or smooth these out. So another draft/reading is necessary.

2) Consistency. Because you wrote the manuscript, you have to, have to, have to go back over it to make sure all your facts and themes are consistent. You can't tell if this consistency is there on a first draft because things are changing in your head as you put them down all the time. (And it is always better to let the work sit for weeks or months before you do this, to distance yourself from the work, otherwise your brain will add things when they are not there!) Plus, some of our memories are not the best (mine is NOT) and while on Tuesday the main chara's eyes were blue, the following week on Wednesday your noggin might decide to inform you they are green.

3) Typos, spelling errors, bad sentences. Prose for me is labor. It doesn't flow easily or always smoothly. Distractions, moods, life, gets into your writing also, and a phrase that sounded like the bomb when you wrote it, might actually be stilted or flat or unnecessary. So one needs to go through the work and look for these things and fix them. (And let me tell you, no matter how many drafts and pairs of eyes go through a work, all of them will never be found! It's amazing how you can look back on something and find all manner of mistakes you thought couldn't possibly be there you've combed the work so many times.)

4) Beta Readers - these guys are incredibly important, but even more so if they have a clue! Just because someone beta read something, does not mean they have the mind set or knowledge to catch mistakes in the work. So if you find a good one, latch on to them like leeches! lol. Anyway, because as a writer, one is so close to the work, you need eyes and minds not already filled with that universe to help look for errors. Not just grammatical ones, but consistency, lack of explanation errors (just because it all makes sense to you, does not mean there is enough there for it to make sense to someone else. :P), and general plot and satisfaction levels. This bit can be invaluable! Because no matter how good one might be at editing others works, what you see in theirs you may not be able to see when it is wrong in yours! (I know I can't!)

I'm sure there are more reasons I can't think of at the moment. Do you know of any? Please share. Or heck, if you think I don't know what I am talking about, give us your opinion. Let's see what we can learn together...
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