I’m often asked how many drafts I write when I’m working on a book. The answer: a lot. I finished my next novel, tentatively titled The Lies We Told, last week, and thought I’d show you the stack of drafts the writing generated. In my left hand, of course, I’m holding the nice, neat perfectly formatted and spell-checked version that I sent to my editor. Beneath my elbow are all the previous versions.
I use different color paper for each draft so I can keep them straight. In this stack there’s pink, blue, green and yellow, and then I had to start repeating the colors.
So, what happens now? My editor (and my agent) will weigh in with their thoughts on what works and what doesn’t in the final draft. By the time I reach the final draft stage, I’m too close to the book to see the forest for the trees, so their input is invaluable. The requested changes from my editor are often things like “Character X’s motivation for stealing his mother’s false teeth needs to be stronger”. My editor’s ideas for change invariably make me a) groan and b) want to punch my computer screen. It usually takes me 24 hours to recover from an editor’s feedback–and to see the value in it. By then, I’m ready to get back to work.
The one thing I’ve learned over the course of writing 19 books is that my
editor is on my side–or rather, on the side of the book. She wants the book to be every bit as good as I want it to be. There’s a tendency, especially among new writers, to see the editor as the enemy. That couldn’t be further from the truth. The other thing I’ve learned is that the editor is nearly always right on the money with her suggestions, no matter how much I hate having to make the revisions.
Here are a couple of examples of changes my editors have recommended in the past:
- In my latest release, Secrets She Left Behind, I originally introduced the significant character, Jen, about halfway through the book. My editor, Miranda Indrigo, suggested I introduce Jen much earlier, which made a lot of sense and increased the tension in the earlier part of the book.
- In Keeper of the Light, the old lighthouse keeper, Mary Poor, was originally a man. My editor at the time was Karen Solem, who is now an agent, and I will never forget her telling me to “sit down” before she made the particular suggestion to change Caleb Poor to Mary Poor. How I resisted for my usual 24 hours! I knew it would require revamping the entire book. Around hour 20, I realized she was right. I had to create an entirely new character in Mary, and she turned out to be a perfect and very necessary addition to the story.
So now I wait. Soon, I expect to be enduring my 24 hours of agony, followed by the addition of one more draft to the pile. I think I’ll use purple this time.