July 1

what we talk about when we talk about drafts

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Julianna Baggott, prolific writer, reveals just how many drafts some of her (many) novels have taken.

Do her numbers frighten you, or give you a sense of relief?

i’ve never looked at this data before much less thought to share it, but when new writers are excited because they’ve “finished” their novel, i’m never sure how to break it to them that they probably haven’t. each time i make a major change to a novel in progress, i create a new file.

sometimes these are also overhauls, complete rewrites. often i’ll write the first fifty or so pages of the material but as drastically different novels — even versions that exist in different genres and for different audiences. after a novel has a first draft, i rewrite heavily again, sometimes wholly. here’s a list of the numbers of drafts (files) of certain novels i’ve written, including three current works in progress.

PURE — 33
FUSE — 16
BURN — 15 (numbers go down because major decisions of world, tense, point of view, genre, audience had already been made in the first book of the trilogy)
HARRIET WOLF’S SEVENTH BOOK OF WONDERS — 39
PROVENCE CURE FOR THE BROKENHEARTED (as Asher) — 19
ALL OF US AND EVERYTHING (as Asher) — 26
THE EVER CURE — never published, pulled from the contract because the editor and I couldn’t see eye-to-eye, a sequel to THE EVER BREATH — 19
of my current works in progress, two have full rough drafts. one took 21 passes to get to the first draft. one took only 10. Both have many more to go. a third work in progress — that has drastically different versions staring at me — stands at 26 files and none of those files will likely be close to the version that will see me through to some rough first draft.

I keep thinking about her point: that many writers think their books are finished too early in the process.

Read the whole post: Home of Baggott & Asher & Bode: what we talk about when we talk about drafts.


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  • It seems to me that no matter how many times I go through a manuscript there’s always room for improvement. So, yes, lots and lots of drafts!

  • It does make me feel a little short of breath looking at those figures but it seems about right. I was at a ‘how to get published’ event at the end of May and speaking with the organisers and fellow attendees made me realise how far I have to go to have a ‘finished’ novel. It’s overwhelming if I think about it too much. What it comes down to is that there is no substitute for writing, writing and then writing some more.

  • A writer I know says that there is no end to revising. At some point, you merely abandon and send in the manuscript to the publisher.

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