Currently I have multiple projects I’m working on. Well, this is more of a thing that’s always going on, rather than just something that happened recently.
My projects go through a few phases.
Phase 1: Zero-Draft
This is the version of the story in which I do what I want, regardless of whether it makes any sense. This can happen during NANOWRIMO, or not, depending on whether I have ideas or not. In this draft, I write all the fun stuff I had the ideas to write about, skipping anything that may have been boring, and just enjoy the process of writing. This draft looks like crap thrown against the wall and includes not just the stuff that stuck, but whatever slid down and piled up in a stinking mess on the floor.
Phase 2: First Pass
In this phase, I begin by leaving my Zero Draft alone for a while, then coming back to it after a few months to do a reread. I figure out the parts I liked and mark them for keeping and ruthlessly delete whatever is just stupid. This is the version that actually sees the light of day. I’ve got a few people I allow to read this version and they give me feedback. At this time, I specifically ask my alpha-readers to ignore grammar and such, since if a scene is no good and needs to be cut, there’s no point in making sure the commas are in the right place.
Phase 3: First Draft
After some brainstorming, I’ll begin combing out tangles and adding more things to flesh out the setting and characters. Again, since this is a Drafting phase, I continue to write whatever makes me excited, rather than sticking entirely to what might or might not make sense for the story as a whole. This allows me to remain entertained and interested in the story, and to discover new things I might not have done otherwise. It’s this phase where my characters really start talking to me and taking over the story.
Phase 4: Second Pass
Hopefully by the end of First Draft, I have an ending. It may not be the perfect ending, but it’s an ending of some kind, making it a full draft that I can seriously start massaging into better shape. This is where I really take out the pruning shears and begin cutting stuff. At this point, anything can get removed, from characters, to entire plot lines. I also start cleaning up the flow of information that the characters get, making sure they don’t jump to the right answer before they’re supposed to. It’s here that I make sure that I challenge the characters and rewrite scenes to create more obstacles.
Phase 5: Second Draft
By now, I’m pretty set on what the story is going to be about, so I start editing for grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure. I’m still on the look-out for scenes that could flow better if something were changed/added/removed. I go so far as to read each sentence out loud to see if it’s too long for the emotion I’m attempting to evoke in the scene. I’ll let my beta readers have a go at the manuscript at this point and make changes based on their feedback.
Phase 6: Chopping Block
I decide, roughly, how many words long I want this story to be. Then I reread the story again for the purpose of cutting words. Usually, my Second Draft is around 160,000 words. I try to keep my end products around 110,000 words. I find that’s long enough for me to get all my plot threads wrapped up sufficiently. Anything that I like but doesn’t belong, I’ve got a special file I put them in. Maybe those ideas will get used later (probably not but it makes me feel better about deleting the scene). I look for places where conversations can be combined, or information could be revealed elsewhere. Then I give it back to my beta readers and ask their thoughts.
Phase 7: Polishing
Now I dedicate an entire reread to looking for grammar and typos. Any changes I make at this point are usually small-scale, consisting of rewording things for clarity.
I do that a few more times until I’m sick of looking at the thing.