Finished the next draft of my sibling rivalry pet book. Hurray. When I work on a book it follows this basic draft format:
1. Outline the book. Usually just a few sentences per chapter. But if I don’t know where I’m going, I become paralyzed when writing.
2. First draft. My least favorite part of the process. I struggle. Each word feels as heavy as a 14.6-pound brick (much heavier than a 10-pound brick) as I build the story wall page after page, just trying to get through it and with no idea if it’s any good. I hate my characters for trying to switch plots on me or realize my outline doesn’t work with my characters at all. I rush over parts that don’t make sense. I struggle to think of another way to say “walk” and finally just write, “walk.”
2. Second draft. When I see and try to fix all the plot holes, character inconsistencies, plot line suckage, lack of descriptions, etc. This is when I realize how horrible the book actually is, that the outline didn’t work, and wonder if I’m as horrible a writer as I fear I am. This may also be the stage when I first share a chapter with someone and usually receive validation that I am a talentless hack.
3. Third draft: I fix all the mistakes I’ve missed, shore up even more plot holes and start concentrating on the language. “Walk” is replaced by “plodded” or “thumped.” This is when the story starts looking acceptable. At this stage I start to have faith in the story again. Or I give up.
4. Drafts four though twenty: Or as many as needed to continue what I started during draft three
5. I print out the story and make changes long hand. This is my favorite stage. The story plot is done, mostly. The characters are developed. But seeing the book printed seems to bring out the writer in me. Pages and paragraphs are ruthlessly slashed through. Backs of typewriter paper have entire new scenes scribbled on them. Arrows tell me to jump to page 126 and then back to 74 and then up to page 143. Some pages might only have two changes. Others are basically unreadable. This stage actually goes quite quickly.
6. I now transcribe everything I did on step 5. Tedious. I can’t read things. What was I thinking here? This is when I wish I could hire a secretary, although they could never read my handwriting.
7. I read the entire thing out loud, as if I’m reading to an audience. Hopefully, changes are minor. Sentences are words are fixed so they sound better. Echo words are discovered as are pronoun misuses, tenses mixed up, typos, etc. I add jokes and details. I see where things sag or are confusing. Hopefully, I love 95% of what I have so changes are cosmetic. But this is when the book actually feels like a publishable thing.
8. Print it out again and have Lauren (my wife) read it for me to catch the typos I’ve missed and other mistakes, which are usually pretty significant. Luckily for me, she’s an excellent proof reader and sounding board.
9. Send it to the world for comments. Wait for comments. Wonder how I missed such an obvious mistake(s). And go back to stage four.
I’m now starting step seven! Since I write on the train, I’ll read out loud quietly … and try to ignore the looks from my fellow riders who think I’m a crazy person mumbling to himself for hours on end day-after-day. I’m anxious to see if the talentless hack part of me has been successfully succumbed. And wonder … is this how everyone writes, or just me?