How Many Drafts Can I Take?

A few weeks ago I lost my voice while performing at Madicon. The timing worked out well, I suppose. Rather than begin my next recording project, I’ve fully committed myself to wrapping up the next (third) draft of my book.  I’ve gotten good beta reader feedback and have worked out many new bits and pieces that I’m having fun sewing into the story.

It seems to me that three drafts and a polish should be the goal. The first draft  was me telling myself the story, the second was figuring out what that really story was, and now the third is telling it to everyone else. After that, a polish sounds good but I can’t see doing another full draft unless someone wants to pay me.

Back when I used to run a theatre company, I was frequently working with new playwrights. Someone would come in for script work shopping and we could tell right away if we would ever hear from them again. A playwright would either double-down on rewriting and rewriting until the thing was perfect or they would grock the flaws and start talking about how to apply the lessons to the next play.

With theatre in particular there is never an obtainable perfect. There are too many people involved in a production, too many technical variables. Damn good is the goal. You must write a bunch of bad stuff before you figure out how to write the good. Write your bad first novel, do a second draft, and then put it aside and write the next one.

I’ve been listening to The Self Publishing Podcast lately, and these guys seems to live by three drafts, polish, and publish. On the downside; a fourth draft might make it tighter (or maybe not). On the upside; speed, reliability, more finished books, more sales, living the dream.  Two of the three hosts of the show have become full-time writers supporting their families based on three drafts, polish, and publish.  Maybe all the changes you want to do with the fourth draft should be the sequel. Just a thought.



About jonahknight

Jonah writes, records, and performs songs about ghosts, monsters, steampunk, and creepy Christmas tunes. Is that geek music? Nerd music? Filk? Who knows. Find more at He also co-hosts (with Mikey Mason) the Pros and Cons podcast. A Parsec Finalist, the show is about geek music and convention culture.

2 thoughts on “How Many Drafts Can I Take?

  1. I agree, TRM, and the book too.

    Some subjects and styles can be easier for you than others, on all sorts of levels.

    To my mind, any sort of writing is finished when you feel it’s *finished.* Ready to take on the world.

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