My Seven Draft Process

We are thrilled to welcome our newest contributor Sydney Strand!

I go through seven drafts, and I can’t decrease the number. I’ve tried. But when I do, I ultimately make MORE work for myself, which increases my stress eating and self-loathing. (More than the average amount.)

I finally made peace with my Seven Drafts when I read a great quote from, uh, somebody writerly once upon a time. He/she said don’t mess with your writing process if it works for you, even if another writer friend seems to be cranking it out faster, better, etc.

Cuz you ain’t that person. You are you.

But the thing is, do you even have a process?

Process: a series of actions or steps taken in order to achieve a particular end

Ask yourself:

1) Do you have a reason for each draft that you do?

2) Do you hate your writing and yourself during each draft until you hit the Final Draft, when you hate yourself and your writing a little less?

3) Whether you’re a plotter, a pantser, or a sit-down-for-three-months-and-write-Twilight writer, do you have a process that stays basically the same for each manuscript you write—and do you finish that manuscript with this process?

The answers to the above should be YES.

If you wrote:

No, I don’t have a reason for each draft that I do, I just muddle with each one, trying to find my way and hope it sucks a little less each time.

You don’t have a good-for-your-mental-health process!

If you wrote:

No, I pretty much hate my writing all the way through, as well as my so-called talents as a writer, and so have ditched yet another project.

You don’t have a good-for-your-mental-health process!

If you wrote:

No, my process changes DRASTICALLY for each manuscript that I write—and I give up on the manuscript, wondering if I have the chops/discipline to be a writer.

Now don’t get me wrong. The process isn’t written in stone. It  shouldn’t look like:

Month 1: Write 1st Draft
Month 2: Revise
Month 3: Send to an agent

That is a bit too general and way too restrictive (and can we talk about insane timelines??).

Sydney’s Process

I want to tell you about my process. It is not going to be the same as yours, but it will give you an idea about what I do for each book I’ve written for Books 4-10 (I’ll tell you about Books 1-3 later*).

Draft 1: The Fast Write Draft. There’s no going back. Keep going forward, 2,000 words per day. **I use Word in this draft.**

Draft 2: The Interviewed Draft. I interview the story (find me on Twitter at @sydney_strand or comment below if you’d like this multi-page interview!). I revise with this interview in mind and touch every single word in Draft 2. **I use Scrivener in this draft.**

Draft 3: The Does This Make Sense Draft. I read the story on my iPad. I highlight the areas that make no sense in terms of motivation and character development and rising tension. I revise based off of these highlights. **I use Dropbox and Adobe Reader in this draft.**

Draft 4: The Does This Read Like a Real Story Draft. I read the story as a printed copy. Again, I ONLY highlight chunks. I look for areas that read too quickly, make no sense, read too boring, don’t fit the purpose of the story. I revise based off of these highlights. **I use many double-sided pieces of paper to read this story.**

Draft 5: I read from a PDF on my iPad. Again. I look for transitions. Flow. Discrepancies Anything in my notes I’ve taken all these months that I DIDN’T remember to include yet. **I use Dropbox and Adobe Reader in this draft.**

Draft 6: I print out. AGAIN. (Sorry trees!) I separate out by chapter, stapling each chapter together. I look at what’s wrong in that chapter, thinking about its place in the story as a whole, but also at a micro level. (Read Donald Maass’s The Fire in Fiction to read about microtension—a fabulous a-ha! moment.) **I use many double-sided pieces of paper to read this story. And staples.**

Draft 7: I read on my iPad again—but as a mobi file as a Kindle Book. A real, live book! Well, ebook. I read for spelling, grammar, and anything I haven’t caught. I also look for places where I can add more of my voice, more of the theme, more motifs. **I use Scrivener to compile as a mobi and the Kindle app on my iPad.**

And those are my seven drafts that I cannot get down to six for the life of me.

Then again, spelling and grammar have always been overrated, right? ;o)

*That Later I Promised You

Book 1’s process: Flail. Flail. Still have a mess because I didn’t know the purpose of the book (because I didn’t have my 7 Draft Process!). This story is still an unpublished mess 12 years later.

Book 2 and 3’s process: These two books were under contract with a Big 5 publisher. The process was basically: write the book in three weeks, send to editor, get a massive revision letter, rewrite in 10 days, send back. Wish I had my 7 Draft Process back then.

__________________________________
Sydney Strand is a fiction writer who has published two young adult books through New York and another six books via self-publishing. Over the last two years, she has focused on writing fun romances, but not of the Red Room of Pain variety. More like the Dan and Roseanne/Sam and Diane variety–humor is sexy, dontcha know. You can follow Sydney on Instagram (1st Favorite), Twitter (2nd Favorite), and Facebook (Not a Favorite). She’s also at www.sydneystrand.com. (Her favoritest of favorites.)

8 thoughts on “My Seven Draft Process

  1. Great post, Sydney! And I love the reminder that my process doesn't need to match anybody else's. I know that, but I forget it so often and feel like maybe I'm doing it wrong. 🙂

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  2. The first book is always so hard, Rosalyn, mainly because you're still learning a lot!! Keep at it, and as you work on each subsequent book, the process will get easier if you reflect on the useless stuff you did vs. the useful stuff. ;o)

    -S.

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  3. Elaine–Thank you! I have a critique partner who is a TOTAL automatron when it comes to writing/revising. The train WILL be on time when she writes. ;o) But she doesn't write the way I write and vice versa. In the end, we do what we need to do to get that story DONE! ;o)

    -S.

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  4. It took me a while to sit down to see what I do, Tasha. I think the writing process will totally go all big and bright and awesome if you do it at some point across a couple of manuscripts. ;o)

    -S.

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