Lather, Rinse, Repeat: The Process of Writing
Draft # 1. Tina Brown of vanity Fair has called the first draft of her book the “vomit” draft…just spew it all out. And that’s what I do. I get it all onto my computer, and backed up, and forget about grammar, spelling, etc. I don’t worry that the plot doesn’t hold together. Don’t even worry that by the end of the third chapter I’ve noticed that my hero’s eyes have gone from brown to blue.
Draft # 2. I start fixing the plot. Make sure it “hangs together”, that my characters act in character, that the details of the ending are in place – even if they are still a rough read.
Draft # 3. I put in big chunks. I take out big chunks. By now the page count should be pretty well set. I add clever bits: sharper dialogue, classical references etc. I re-arrange chapters to get a better plot flow.
Draft # 4. I start to read the work like a novel instead of like a manuscript. (Does that make sense?) I make sure there’s a rhythm to the writing, a building of tension, a dramatic and suspenseful flow, surprising phrases, original metaphors.
Draft # 5. I trick myself into thinking that this is my last look at the work before it goes to press. I do searches on words like: very, just, really, too…and get rid of them. I take out (almost all) the adverbs. I read out loud, or “read out loud in my head” so that I can fine-tune the prose. I format. I clean up punctuation. I keep at it until I think it’s perfect. Then I go to Draft # 6.
Draft # 6. See Draft # 5.