I read an excellent interview with Laini Taylor on this month's Goodreads Newsletter. Laini is one of my favorite authors, and her "Daughter of Smoke and Bone" trilogy is simply astonishing. So imagine my surprise (and delight) to discover that she goes through the same grind-it-out writing process as I do. I used to berate myself for over-editing as I go, but I've come to realize it's just what I have to do. At least now I know I'm in good company!
I think the takeaway from this is that every writer has to discover his or her own process. The means by which we arrive at at a finished book can be as varied as books themselves. Which is as it should be.
Here's the question (posed by reader Shahzoda): How many drafts does it usually take you to get a book to a place where you're happy to publish it?
LT: This is a tricky question because I think it rests on this idea that writers write complete drafts, one after another, powering through each one from beginning to end—especially that first one, the "fast first draft." I know a lot of writers who do this. A lot of amazing books are written this way.
But I can't do it. I'm constantly revising as I go. I'll get 50 pages in and then start over. I'll spend months finding the right beginning. I'll rewrite a chapter eight times before I move on. (Then maybe I'll delete it entirely.) I have to love the whole thing as I go, even down to the sentence level. It's really extreme and kind of insane, but hey, that's the brain I've got.
So how many drafts do I write? In one sense, I write three. In another sense, 80,000! I submit a first draft to my editor, get notes on it, write a second draft, get notes on that, and then write the final draft. Which sounds really civilized! But the "first draft" that I submit has been relentlessly revised…and not in any kind of orderly way that would enable me to count versions. All the crazy is hidden away in my writing room, for my eyes only!