I have a method for novel writing, one that I thought might be helpful for all of you.
I call it the Five Draft Method, and here I’ll show you what every draft should be and what you’ll need to work on every step of the way.
First Draft: Get it down on paper
The main point of the first draft is just to get it out of your head and onto the page. That’s the hardest part, especially if you’ve never really written before. In my opinion, the first draft is one of the hardest. You have to focus on not going back and changing things, not rereading everything you wrote and trying to make it into something better. The first draft is all about doing it, getting it out, and experiencing the act of finishing a novel.
From here on out, the drafts take a little more time and effort. Usually, I recommend waiting at least six months between your first and second drafts, and at least three months between the subsequent drafts.
And no, when I say draft, I don’t mean you should go back and rewrite the whole story. Unless your first draft was completely unusable, that's not generally necessary (at least, in my experience).
Second Draft: Cut out what you don’t need
For me, a second draft is born when you go through your first draft, cut out everything you don’t need, and mark areas that need expansion or alteration. It’s all about shredding your own work, in a sense. There’s always a lot of information that you can afford to lose, even if you’re attached to it. That’s why I recommend those six months between the two drafts. Give yourself time to not be so in love, to be able to cut whole passages without feeling like you’re tearing your own heart out.
Third Draft: Alter your plotlines
Remember in draft two when you marked areas for expansion and alterations? That’s what you’re doing in draft three—you’re expanding. Go in and add details you may have missed before, fix plots so they make sense and move more smoothly and fluidly (and fix your plot holes), feeling free to put in as many words as you please. After all, it’s only the third draft.
Fourth Draft: Cut out what you don’t need
Here’s where you’re getting into the finalization of your novel. Go through everything you’ve done so far and cut out anything you don’t need. Again. I guarantee you added more than was necessary in the last step, so it’s not a problem to go in and cut it back now. Take the time to make sure everything you now have is everything you want to have. If there’s anything extra, cut it. If you find a place where you need a little more detail, add it. This is your second to last draft, so make sure it’s getting good by now.
Fifth Draft: Fix your grammar
Finally, in your fifth draft, you’ll go through and fix all your grammar. At least, as much as you catch. Go slowly through the story and fix any little things that might need fixing. Keep in mind that when you’re done, this is the draft you’ll send out to publishers. You want this draft to be the best one yet, the one that shines and sparkles the way you envisioned from the very beginning. It’s the culmination of all your hard work, so make it the best you can. Fix any mistakes you find, alter anything that might need altering, and remember above all else that it probably needs more work, but that you’ll need someone else’s eyes to see it.
And that, my friends, is my Five Draft method of novel writing. It’s how I write all my books, and in my experience, it’s one of the best ways to keep me moving forward on a story, even after I’ve gone from loving it to being ready for someone else to edit it to their heart’s content.