How many drafts does it take to make a novel publishable? I wrote my first novel and sat back with an incredible sense of accomplishment. I stuck it in a file drawer (what you’re supposed to do with a first book, right?) and moved on to my next novel. The sense of satisfaction upon finishing the second one was – wait – there was none. The first time I wrote with a solitary purpose, write a book. The second time, the stakes were higher. I wanted my writing to go further. Facing a second draft meant only one thing to me: the beginning of a long journey.
The real work isn’t in writing the book. The blood, sweat, and tears is in rewriting, revising, and editing. Then, doing that again and again and again until the book is as good as it can be. So many times writers tire and abandon a story before it reaches its end simply because it must go through this process, and it is a painful one for the writer.
One of the reasons for telling writers to put that first novel in a file drawer is because it is part of your learning curve. It is “finished” but it is rarely anywhere close to publishable. And isn’t publishing the goal for most of us? Sometimes (especially in new writers), it is hard for a writer to learn the difference between a finished piece and a publishable one. We have to put in a lot of work and rewrite as many times as it takes.
How many times is that? Oh, if there were just a magic number. However, there are too many factors. The experience of the writer, the genre of the novel, the style of the novel, the novel itself. Some books simply require more time and attention than others. There are a lot of factors to take into account. And in the end, the writer needs to be intuitive enough to know just how many rewrites that particular book needs, whether it’s his first book or his twelfth.
What are the most rewrites of a manuscript you’ve had to do to get it right? My magic number for my YA so far is four.