I’ve decided to post a bit more frequently on my blog in future, expanding on things I don’t usually have space to in a Facebook post (which is where I give quick regular updates on things like writing progress https://www.facebook.com/AndyBlinstonAuthor)
To start, I thought I’d talk about something relevant to the position I’m in at the moment, which is almost having a complete first draft of my next book (Rakkan Conquest 4). I’ve spoken with other authors before about their approach to the writing process, and many like to have someone read over their first drafts to give initial feedback before they spend more time on scenes and chapters that may end up being discarded for various reasons.
I used to share first drafts with my writing group every week to get regular feedback when I was starting out as a writer, but now that I have more novels under my belt, I know many of the issues that will be raised in my writing because I’ve purposely left things unaddressed as I’ve been writing.
When I write, I will often have a thought or an idea about something that happened previously in the book. I might suddenly spot a plot hole or realise I needed to lay more groundwork for whatever I’m writing at that time. But I don’t interrupt my writing and do that; I just make a note of it and plough on.
This is how I’ve found I’m most productive, otherwise I will be constantly editing the book as I go, which leads to more time taken in the long run.
So now that I’m sitting here with a first draft almost “complete,” I don’t really see it as such. I have a list of several pages worth of bullets I’ve made over the last few months that I need to go back and change/add to the story. Some of these might be minor, but it could involve adding several chapters to explain something that happens later.
My first draft, therefore, is like a story full of holes that need plugging. And that’s not even to mention the pacing and prose issues that my first drafts suffer.
My first drafts tend to move at breakneck speed, with little in the way of mood or descriptions apart from some scenes which I have clear in my mind. It’s only in the fourth or fifth drafts that they contain everything necessary to set the tone I’m intending, as I find that the most difficult and time-consuming part, so I’m only prepared to do that once I’m more sure I will be keeping a scene in the final book.
So, you may wonder when I do let people read the book. My alpha readers tend to get it around draft 3, when I’m fairly happy that it contains at least the skeleton of what I’d envisaged.
Around draft 6 is when the beta readers get it, after I have addressed any issues brought up in the alpha read (which for my last two books at least led to an extra 40k words being added!)
After that, the editing is more at the sentence level, and early access readers will get it as it’s sent to the proofreader.
By the time it’s published, I’ve read it start to finish at least 6-10 times (and am thoroughly sick of it) but am far happier with the product than how it looked at that first draft stage.
So that’s why I never let people read my first drafts and have no intentions of doing so in the future.