Why I Ditched My Draft

Last week, I tweeted something like, “I just opened my complete draft of Incarnate 3 and deleted it.”

(I didn’t, of course, delete it. Deleting things forever is terrible and icky. I just told Scrivener not to use those 75,000 words when compiling the draft.)

This declaration caused quite a stir. It’s a complete draft! And . . . I’m just letting it all go?

Yes. Let me explain why.

When I got an agent with INCARNATE, the first thing I did was start writing book 2. (Actually, the first thing I did was get my wisdom teeth removed, but never mind that.) And when we sold the trilogy and I finished book 2, I immediately started writing book 3.

Now, standard advice is to hold off writing further books until you have a contract, that way you don’t waste time writing something that might not sell. And besides, your story will most likely go through a lot of revision by the time you get to the end, so who knows what could change!

All true, my friends. All true.

However, I know my brain. I know how I work. At the time INCARNATE sold, I’d been writing full time for over seven years. I’d written *mumblemumble* manuscripts. I knew that, if something needed to change, I could do it. I like revision. So I kept writing.

I had a strong idea of where I wanted to end the trilogy before I ever wrote the first words of INCARNATE. I had synopses! I finished the first draft of book 3 about a week before my editor sent me an edit letter for INCARNATE.

The edits for INCARNATE weren’t too drastic (since I’d already done one major edit for her), but the changes would carry over into books 2 and 3. No big deal. From the start, I knew this would happen.

I did all the revising and editing on INCARNATE, then rewrote book 2 and turned it in. I left book 3 alone, because more things would change in book 2, I was certain. There was no point in putting the effort into fixing book 3 if I might have to fix it again in a different way. (That goes back to the standard advice of not writing sequels until the first is ready to go. Yes, this time I took the advice.)

When my edit letter came for book 2, Editor Sarah and I discussed how to get this book in its best possible shape. I tried to take her suggestions and do one better on them. By the end of the revision process on book 2, it only vaguely resembled the first draft I’d written after I signed with Agent Lauren, and it was a much better book.

As I was making all these changes to book 2, I realized book 3 would be quite interesting to revise.

Ahem. That is, rewrite.

Well, maybe start from scratch.

Because here’s the honest to commas truth: I’ve never been totally pleased with the draft I wrote of book 3. For one thing, it was a draft; by its drafty nature, it had a lot of problems. If I’d been totally pleased with it, that would have been a big indication of my (un)readiness to be published. And the other thing is that I wrote it because I needed to feel some sort of completeness before I started editing book 1. I needed to see what parts of the overall story arc were important so I could go back and sprinkle in hints at the beginning.

From the start, I was prepared to revise rewrite start over from the beginning on book 3.

I’ll keep some things. Certain events will still happen. Discoveries will be still made. Even the very ending line will be the same. So why not just shuffle around the stuff I’m keeping?

Because I don’t want it to get in my way. I want to feel free to explore new plotlines, new pieces of the world, and new emotional arcs for the characters. While I’ll still make a few of the same stops, I want to take a different journey. Getting the old draft out of my sight gives me the freedom to do just that.

My NEW first draft will still need work, but that’s okay. That’s what drafts are: things needing work. Ultimately, through rewrites, revisions, and smaller edits, the book will be better. And I only want to give people the best story possible.


Comments

Why I Ditched My Draft — 12 Comments

    • Thanks! I’m always fascinated by how much things can change over the course of a few drafts! And I’m REALLY excited to get to work on a brand new draft of book 3. :D

  1. For both SLIDE #1 and #2, I’ve had to do massive rewrites. I just find it easiest to open a new document with each revision and go from there. I reuse scenes here and there, but most of it gets changed. Good luck with your rewrite!

    • Yes! Some stuff is still useable, but that clean page makes it so easy to think outside of what you’ve already written. Glad I’m not the only one who does this!

  2. “I needed to see what parts of the overall story arc were important so I could go back and sprinkle in hints at the beginning.”

    I found this, too. It’s tough, when you know you’re gonna have a multiple-book series on your hands, to decide whether to go ahead with the subsequent books or not. Besides just the temptation of wanting to continue their story for your sake, there’s this. My own approach was to outline and write the synopses for the subsequent two books in as much detail as I felt was needed to get book one straight during revisions. (I felt this had the added benefit of providing synopses for agents/editors, too, so they know where I plan to take the series.) But it’s probably not something that would work for everyone. I expect the main downside to writing the draft out in full is that people get attached to that first version so when the editor/whomever comes back and says it’s going to need to go in a whole new direction, they try to cling to as much as they can of what they’ve written and it results in a poorer final product. I think you’ve got a good attitude about it. :)

  3. It’s interesting to hear about your process. I agree that starting over is really liberating. It’s just hard sometimes to get into the mindset that “they’re just words; there are more where those came from.” Good luck on your rewrite!

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