Wednesday, June 2, 2021

#IWSG: Letting that Draft Breathe

Our Insecure Writers Support Group question for June is a breath of fresh air:

June 2 question - For how long do you shelve your first draft, before reading it and re-drafting? Is this dependent on your writing experience and the number of stories/books under your belt?


In a perfect world, letting the first draft breathe like a fine wine would be a given. But the only thing that comes into play for me regarding timing is how MUCH of it I have available. I’ve always been a pretty clean first draft writer. I’m lucky to have fantastic BETA readers amongst my critique group who’ll provide a read thru before I go to final, and their allowed timing affects mine. But the biggest influence (and curse!) has always been the time line I give myself now that I’m self-pubbing. I have a (sometimes bad) habit of picking a release date and counting backwards to allow for first draft, clean up, BETA reads, and final. In a perfect world, all would run smoothly. But there’s always that unforeseen snag . . . the bane of a writer’s existence . . . that’s out of your control.

When I started writing, decades ago, the first books I wrote for Zebra went from typewriter first draft to final publisher edit to publication, so right from the start, I had hard and fast editing rules: First draft – 3 months, one week to marinate before on to read thru/first edit – two weeks, then to editor. Second drafts were for clean up and minor expansion, not major rewrites. There just wasn’t time. It wasn’t until I started self-pubbing that I had the luxury of letting words “rest.” I’d always tell myself to give it a month, or at least two weeks. But I never had the discipline to stay away that long. Ahhh, that siren’s call of my characters . . .

The BIG exception was the final book of 15 in my “By Moonlight” dark paranormal shapeshifter series. With ten years between Book 1 and Book 15, there were a ton of things to be knitted together to keep the whole from unraveling. I had to put together a list of plot dangles then create an elaborate timeline in which to link them all - an effort that took longer than writing the first draft! For the first time, I had to push a release date back, and in retrospect, I wish I’d taken another few weeks.

Of course the number of books written gives you a better handle on your own process, so you can cinch up that editing belt if you need to. That belt was pretty darn tight when I returned to the work force fifteen years after being a stay-at-home mom, but now my time is my own as a retiree, and is my own worst enemy as I putz along with my current Texas-set romantic suspense. Those first draft edits are sitting across the room but instead of compelling me, I’m finding it all too easy to put on headphones to binge watch Netflix. I’m blaming isolation brain. But really, there’s no excuse. Now that I’ve admitted that to everyone, it’s play computer off, work laptop on. Time to gitter done!

Right after I see what you’ve been up to . . .


Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer - aim for a dozen new people each time.The awesome co-hosts for the June 2nd posting of the IWSG will be J Lenni Dorner, Sarah Foster, Natalie Aguirre, Lee Lowery, and Rachna Chhabria!

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

Twitter hashtag is #IWSG

22 comments:

  1. I can imagine that the process of editing is much easier given how many books you have written. It must have been hard to edit on a typewriter. I remember those days when I handwrote letters and pleadings as an attorney and had a secretary type them. I'm so grateful for computers.

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    1. That, and the time factor, taught me to prepare a tidy first draft (back in that written by hand days). And that correction tape I used for my attorney back in the early days of being a legal assistant. Nothing like correcting through all the copies . . . I was that secretary for 20 years!

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  2. You did the deadline thing for so long, a little breathing room is in order!

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  3. I would say in self-publishing, you are the boss. It's okay to take your time. Of course, that may affect the bottom line on your author business! Your article took me back to the days of typewriters and that white ink to fix errors. Better to re-type the whole thing than use that. Thanks for sharing.!

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    1. And then Memory Selectric typewriters with built in correction tape!

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  4. Gosh, do I ever share your retired love of putzing. But, I wouldn't change a thing and I doubt you would either!

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    1. I sometimes think I should find a part time job . . . then I laugh and laugh!

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  5. I don't have Beta Readers, I just have a critique partner who does a wonderful job of critiquing my manuscript.

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    1. Here's to those we trust with our fragile babies!!

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  6. I wish I was a "clean" first drafter, I have messy bits everywhere. My hat is off to you for tying together a 15-book, decade-long series. I feel dizzy just imagining something like that!

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    1. What a relief to get that behind me! But I'm getting the rights back to some of the earlier books that are out of print, sooooo . . . back to it!

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  7. Hi,
    I try to be as clean as I can when it comes to writing my first draft but I don't always succeed. However, I believe it is possible to become more effective as you write more book.

    Wishing you all the best and have a lovely month of June.

    Shalom aleichem,
    Pat G @ EverythingMustChange

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    1. If I'd started out in the era of computers with easy editing I never would have learned to be such a clean first draft writer! A lovely June to you as well, Pat!

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  8. I'm retired, as well, and will never be interested in traditional publishing. I spent a career of late nights, weekends, and meeting deadlines. At this point in my life, I don't need that kind of stress. My stories just take their sweet time, and I'm good with that.

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    1. LOL! I hear you, Lee! Writing at my own pace suits me, too!

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  9. Thanks for sharing your process before and now. Time and process are the things we need to find our own space in. Thanks for the insights.

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    1. My pleasure, Juneta. We're all in this together!

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  10. WOW 15 books! I can imagine that plot outline took a while. Impressive! I can definitely see how traditional pub timelines vs. self publishing makes a difference, as well as the experience of writing more books. Thank you!

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  11. You were so organized. I know, you had to be. I know what you mean about time now that we're retired. The more we have, the easier it is to squander. I hope your process helps those who need the organization.

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    1. We ALL need organization in some form (you should see my desktop!!). OCD does have its advantages.

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