It depends on what I’m working on but whether I write a novel, short story, poem or script, I do as many drafts as necessary. There’s usually at least three – the initial writing down of the idea, the go through the second time for spelling and grammar and the third go to check that the story actually makes sense. Often if I then have to do a major rewrite, that gets done and I go through the revision and rechecking processes again. I enjoy editing. It feels good to sense your story taking shape and ditching the phrases, repetition and other things that clog the tale up. I save my earlier drafts and use the blank side for running out my next draft and so on as I only need perfectly clear paper for printing out the final version. I see each stage as necessary and I consider a work finished when I can’t see any other ways to improve it further.
How many drafts do you write?
It depends on what I’m writing. For a novel I usually do at least 4 drafts (get the story down, first copy edit as I type it up, then an edit to make sure story makes sense and then a final look over to make sure I haven’t missed anything). For short stories I tend to write to screen, print out, edit on paper, put in my amendments, print it out and read it through. If it’s good enough I then send, if I find I’ve missed something I do another edit on screen. Scripts I tend to do at least three drafts usually to get it down to the right kind of length for a radio comedy slot.
Do you outline or “wing it”?
I used to wing it even with the novels. Looking back I think I must’ve been nuts. I outline for almost everything now, even flash fiction (though the outline is suitably shorter!). I find for short stories I need to rough out an idea before I can start. With the novels I don’t plot out everything but the main points I need to reach.
What do you do with rejected work?
I recycle it! If a short story fails in one competition, I try another. If the same piece keeps coming back, I look at it again, see if there are ways I can rewrite and rework it and then try again. I take the same approach with novels and scripts. But I do try to get all work up to as good as I can make them before I even send them out. When I submit work to a competition, if I can get feedback at a reasonable price I do. (Be cautious here, some competitions do charge a lot for this – it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a scam but the organizers ought to show they have well published authors running the critiques here and it’s clear you’re paying for their time as you should. Never pay more than you’re happy with. Also sites like Shortbread enable you to submit stories and you usually get some feedback and that’s for free! You pay your money and take your choice here).