top of page

Writers: What Each Draft of Your Work in Progress Means

One of the biggest concerns I get about writing is that someone's first draft doesn't exactly match up with someone else's published work. Writing, as it turns out, is a process, and creating a masterpiece takes time, patience, and multiple drafts. As a writer, it's essential to understand the various stages your work will go through and the roles that different readers, writers, and editors play in refining your manuscript.

First Draft: The Rough Gem

The first draft is where your ideas take shape on paper. At this stage, your primary focus should be on getting the story down, without worrying too much about grammar or continuity. Allow yourself the freedom to experiment, make mistakes, and write imperfectly. The first draft is for you, the writer, to explore the world you're creating and flesh out your characters, settings, and plot. I make it a rule for myself (and anyone in need of advice) to never read a word of what you've written here until it's done. Continue the momentum and get to the end.

At this stage, you may want to enlist the help of an alpha reader. Alpha readers are typically close friends, family members, or fellow writers who can provide you with valuable feedback on the overall direction of your story. They can help you identify what works and what doesn't, offering suggestions for improvement while the manuscript is still malleable. This isn't a very common step, but your alpha reader should be someone that understands the story like you do.

Second Draft: Polishing and Refining

Once you've completed the first draft, it's time to revise. I love getting a printed copy of my manuscript to pour over and make notes on. In the second draft, you'll focus on improving the overall structure of your story, addressing any plot holes, inconsistencies, or weak character development. It's also an excellent opportunity to strengthen your writing style, delete unnecessary scenes, and add more depth to your characters.

Now is the time to introduce beta readers. Beta readers are avid readers and writers who provide feedback on your manuscript from a reader's perspective. They can help you identify any lingering plot inconsistencies, character issues, or pacing problems. They may also point out confusing passages or sections that could use more clarification.

Third Draft: The Developmental Edit

As your betas read your work and leave feedback, it's time to look for a developmental editor. If you're asking yourself, "Do I need one?" The answer is yes. A developmental editor focuses on the overall structure and organization of your story, offering in-depth feedback on plot, character development, pacing, and theme. Their expert guidance can help you elevate your manuscript to a higher level, ensuring your story is engaging and well-crafted.

Fourth Draft: Fine-Tuning

After addressing any issues raised by your beta readers or developmental editor, it's time to fine-tune your manuscript. The fourth draft is about perfecting your story, ensuring that every element is polished and ready for the next stage.

Fifth Draft: The Copy Edit

Once you're confident in the structure, plot, and characters of your story, it's time to hire a copy editor. Copy editors focus on the technical aspects of your writing, correcting grammar, punctuation, syntax, and word choice. They also ensure that your manuscript adheres to a consistent style, making your writing clear and engaging.

Sixth Draft: The Final Polish

After the copy edit, you'll review your manuscript and make any necessary changes. This is your opportunity to address any lingering issues, make final adjustments, and ensure your work is the best it can be.

Seventh Draft: Proofreading

The final stage of your manuscript's journey is proofreading. A proofreader will meticulously examine your manuscript for any remaining errors, including typos, formatting issues, and inconsistencies in punctuation or capitalization. They provide the final polish to your work, ensuring it is error free and ready for publication.

Each draft of your work in progress plays a crucial role in shaping and refining your manuscript. Understanding the purpose of each stage and the contributions of alpha readers, beta readers, developmental editors, copy editors, and proofreaders will help you navigate the writing process with confidence.

I post writing tips every Tuesday. Sign up to my mailing list today to be notified every time I post--and receive a monthly newsletter with book recommendations and writing updates!

1 view0 comments
bottom of page