Just finished the second draft of DEAR READER. Now to read it again once for minor tweaks and it’ll go into production. If you’ve moved, don’t worry, I will email you to confirm your address.
I’m often asked if I have any advice on writing, so I thought I’d take a second and discuss my process for those who are interested. The one sentence version: don’t write and edit at the same time. That’s the most common mistake people make and it frustrates them to no end. It’s like driving a car and constantly adjusting and occasionally even going into reverse for no reason.
The longer version is this. I write everything three times. The first time is “what happened.” It’s every incident from point A to point B. I never get writer’s block because I give myself permission to fill things in later. If I can’t think of the word I want at the moment, I’ll write a word I know to be wrong and then next to it put FIND BETTER WORD highlighted in yellow. There’s no point in pausing the first time just for one word, especially when I’ll probably think of it immediately upon reread. This goes for bigger gaps as well. There’s nothing wrong with writing FIND BETTER SEGUE or even condensing a scene that hasn’t been worked out with [Kim Jong Il visits DMZ here] and skipping it entirely. I can go back the next day or even much later.
The second draft is when I rearrange things, cut down heavily (I cut 25 pages from the first draft, in this case) and make it read smoothly. Essentially, it’s all editing. The mistakes are usually glaring in the context of the whole book, as opposed to that day’s work.
The third draft is reading for pleasure. It’s when I tweak and add wordplay and things like that. In essence, I’m riffing on an existing manuscript. By this time I know the material very well so it actually gets fun.
Unfortunately with mainstream publishing you have to do more drafts, and at those points one tends to lose perspective. That’s when confidence in your three earlier drafts is crucial, knowing that you couldn’t have let any major mistakes past through three iterations.
Hope this helps!
The People’s Author
PS For anyone in the NYC area, I am giving a free talk about north Korea on the evening of Sunday, 12/15. Details here: https://www.facebook.com/events/202343719949641/