How Many Drafts Do I REALLY Need?
How many drafts do I really need?
Three. At least. Thanks for reading.
Ok, for real life here. I’m going to stick with three as the absolute, bare minimum. I’ve had authors who send me the twelfth draft of their work. Twelve drafts before it even gets to an editor. Think about that.
Let’s break this down for you.
The First Draft
This is the get it all down on paper draft. You are writing as fast as you can. Don’t worry about spelling or grammar or anything like that. Just get the words out of your head and onto a paper. It’s called rough for a reason. The next draft is when you start to smooth things out.
“The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.”
― Terry Pratchett
The Second Draft
This is another draft you do. You go back to your rough draft, and start fixing things. The spelling, the grammar, etc. This is also the draft where you should be doing research and fact checking things. I mean, you don’t want to be writing a cop novel and use the wrong type of gun in it. Or have a five year old acting like a seven year old (and yes, there a huge difference there). Even checking things like when something was invented or the etymology of a word when you are writing a period piece.
Go through the entire manuscript, change things around, clean things up, fill things out if needed. You want this to be the best possible before you send it out into the world.
The Third Draft
Now take your second draft, and send it to an editor. They will go over it, change things, clean things up, correct things. And most importantly, give you feedback on everything they see. Is the plot consistent? Do the characters act the same throughout the piece? Is the information accurate (did you do your research)?
When you get the edited draft back, you will go through it and fix everything the editor points out to you or corrected for you. Some editors are more involved and will do a lot of it for you, some will just point things out and ask questions to get you thinking about how to fix it yourself.
Once you fix it all, you have your third draft.
Am I Done?
You could be. But in my opinion, you shouldn’t be. Especially if you are looking to publish.
You will need to repeat Step Three multiple times. You can start by giving it to a friend or family member willing to read it for you. Then fix what they see. Send the updated draft to an editor, follow their directions. Then send that draft back to the editor. Then a proofreader, and finally some beta readers.
Yes that’s a lot of drafts and a lot of steps. But each time you send your manuscript out and get it back with feedback, you are making your story better. It may never be “perfect”, but it’s going to be close.