How many licks to get to the center of a novel? (The world may never know.)

Hello, I write to you from THE FUTURE, where my life is whole, my brain able to process simple tasks instead of characters and storylines. I give you…A COMPLETED BOOK!

Except…IT IS NOT ACTUALLY COMPLETE YET! I’m just getting a taste of it because I finished a fourth draft and have sent it to readers. It’s nice. I wear clean clothes, now. And now, I will be able to start the sixth draft. That’s right, I didn’t forget how to count — I’m going to start the fifth draft before readers finalize their feedback, because I already know there are things I want to fix. So the question I always hear asked is…

Q. How many drafts does one book need?

A. As many as it takes.

This is the common denominator I’ve learned from every writer, be it friend, presenter or teacher. Everyone has a process, every story presents its own challenge. So…IT WILL NEVER BE OVER. It could always change, be better, go in an exciting new direction. That is both interesting (you can write forever!) and terrifying (you can write forever). And so, I sent a draft to readers or else NO ONE would ever read it. I suspect I have a few drafts left. Here is the process so far:

  1. Rough draft. Glorious mess. Writing with abandon. All things can and will happen. I love writing!
  2. Second draft. Discovering the mess is not, in fact, glorious, but a horrible, bloody, god-awful massacre. Writing is scary.
  3. Third draft. Ok, ok, ok, there are some things here that are working. I’m not sure how they will connect yet. Maybe I should write short stories instead? Nope, they’re connecting. Everything’s gonna be OK.
  4. Fourth draft. People will actually read this. Uh oh. Time to take out comments like “WHERE DO SNAILS LIVE?” and actually find out. Research. What about typos? Oh, this part is embarrassing. Just send it, send it, SEND IT ALREADY.
  5. Fifth draft. Think about writing. Don’t do it. Go read a book instead. Maybe write later.

Off I go…to read, a good reminder of why I write, and do all these drafts. I hope to write as well as the books and authors I love.