How Do You Draft?

hand

About two weeks ago I started a second draft of The Halley Branch, a novel I wrote for the blog in real time in 2015 (I wrote and posted a new chapter every day).  Last night I was talking to someone about drafting, and we were thinking slightly different things.  I am a little curious on people’s opinions about how to draft.  I know, each person does things their own way, like the old arguments about being a Planner or Pantser when writing the first draft, but I am still curious.

I see two major styles of drafting, Old School and Edited Draft.  OK, I made up that last one because I didn’t want to call it “The Lazy Way”, particularly since that is my current technique.  I’ll give you a definition as to how I see these methods.

Back in the day of writing with pencil, pen and typewriter, every word of each draft had to be written out one letter at a time.  Before a next draft, the writer might go through the old draft very thoroughly and make notes, maybe even do true “cut and paste” to rearrange things.  I’m talking scissors here.  I wrote like this in high school and college.  I wrote a draft in pencil, spent a long time marking it up in pen, rearrange, deleting etc.  Then I would write the next draft, reading the first, but changing it as I went along.  Each draft was unique, rewritten from beginning to end.

Today I start with a copy of the first draft (computer file) and go through it making changes (on the computer) as I proceed.  Sometimes the changes are huge – rewriting entire paragraphs and pages, adding sentences/paragraphs/pages/chapters, deleting paragraphs/pages/chapters, rearranging sentences/paragraphs/pages/chapters (computer copy and paste), etc.  Sometimes they are smaller – making grammar or spelling corrections, changing word choice, etc.  I might even go a few pages with no changes whatsoever.  If I make few changes to the entire work, I call it a “revision”.  If I make a lot of major changes, I call it a new “draft”.  It is all done on the computer.  I might delete paragraphs and rewrite them, but I do not rewrite the entire work, the bulk of it comes directly from the first draft.  (If you read The Fireborn, between 60% and 70% of the words were different from the first draft, either added (the length increased by over 30%) or changed in the 6 drafts and 20 revisions.)

What do you do, do a true rewrite (Old School) or edit the existing file (Lazy Way)?  Do you have a different option?  What do you think of each?  What pros and cons do you see with each technique?  If you do something totally different, what do you do?

I do have opinions, but I want your feedback untarnished by what I say (another post on the subject coming soon ;) )

So, what do you think?

 

11 thoughts on “How Do You Draft?

    1. trentpmcd Post author

      Half Old School, half new. When I do any planning on something I write, it is always in pencil or pen on paper. I think better that way. Years ago, when I was composing music,, I would do a lot of sketches on manuscript paper before I would fire up Sibelius. I also discovered that I had a hard time following the old voice leading rules if I did it on the computer, I had to do Old School counterpoint with a pencil. And copy/paste was way too tempting (what’s the harm if I copy this line, paste it here and transpose it a fifth?) I think with “word composition”, or story telling ;), I do a little better seeing things on the screen, but I think that is with years of forcing myself. I still like to print out and read out loud the last draft, if i have time.

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  1. Corina

    In a perfect world, I write with pen and paper first. Then my first edit is when I type it. As I type it the first time, I find things that I cut and add passages. I might do some revising and print out the whole thing then do another paper edit and retype. Of course, that requires a working printer which I haven’t had in about three years. I also do a read aloud before I call it finished. Reading it out loud shows an awful lot of places where you can change it to make it flow easier and to get rid of some of the instances of using the same word too many times/too close together.

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    1. trentpmcd Post author

      Mostly “Old School” for you, then. For me, reading it out loud would be one of the last steps right before the final editing to catch typos and things. I can see a lot of benefit in retyping everything one word at a time, and am weighing it as an option with my CWiP.

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  2. eloisedesousa

    Since I’m a pantser style writer, my drafts tend to lean towards re-writes and additions added along the way. If I don’t like a large chunk I usually create a separate file where I drop the paragraphs in case I need them again. Spellings and typos are usually dealt with at the end of the process before the story goes to the editor.

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    1. trentpmcd Post author

      Then, except for a few odds and ends that you keep in a separate file on the side, you completely rewrite using a blank document? I sometimes add a lot, but I use the old draft as a “skeleton” to build off of. I do correct typos and such if I see them as i go, but I don’t look for them. I agree that that is for the end of the process.

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  3. Marilyn Armstrong

    When I was doing technical work, I always did a paper edit first, but after that, electronic. You notice more when you do it by hand. You notice typos, doubled words, awkward phrasing, stuff you tend to miss when you’re working electronically. If you have a real live editor to go over your work, you may not need it a paper edit.

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    1. trentpmcd Post author

      A paper edit is a good idea. I have also heard people say that it is a good idea to read everything out loud. It forces you to pay attention to detail, and if it doesn’t feel right on the tongue,it most likely isn’t right in text. I do have a few people who help me edit, and one does print it out, but they aren’t professionals, so I do need ever trick i can get for those things like typos, etc.

      To me, though, these are things I will do closer to the end of the process. The first couple of drafts are more to fix larger scale structural elements, maybe add detail and delete stuff that’s not needed.

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  4. idiotwriter

    Is it maybe akin to the difference between traditional painting and digital. Traditional you may start with a sketch then build it. It may be planned, knowing exactly where it’s going, or winged. But it’s the beginning of a creation. I guess that’s a draft? But then editing spelling grammar etc, perhaps that’s like.. hmmm… What… Just checking and tidying up? Whereas if you did a revision of a painting, you would recommend it completely from scratch…. Traditionally. But with advanced tech… You get to use layers etc. But you still edit and tidy up. No idea for writing… Cos.. you know, I would just kinda go along until it’s done. Lol. Calling it writing. Then send it off to a pro to edit. 😂

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    1. trentpmcd Post author

      I would never let a pro see it before I did a few drafts ;)

      Actually your analogy isn’t that far off. Working on the computer is in many ways a different media, even if you are working with words and not color.

      A real draft is often a bigger undertaking than actually getting that first draft out. But then, that is similar to a quick sketch (first draft) and a more finished version. I’ve seen were artists have done quite a few sketches and studies before they started the final version.

      The biggest issue I have with doing a draft on the computer is I get lazy. If I was actually writing the words down again, I would be less likely to let weak sentences and paragraphs through.

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