by James M. Jackson
My writing process has evolved. Now, first drafts are bare bones, primarily concerned with plot. This story came in at 80,000 words. The second draft sorts out plot problems caused by my writing the first draft without knowing how it would end until I wrote it. I also layer in more information about subplots and the psychological aspects of the novel. That added 5,000 words, increasing the count to 85,000.
Draft three is a clean-up draft. Plot becomes solid, subplots are locked in, character motivations and reactions are in place, and I eliminate or combine all scenes not driving the story. That draft came in at 81,000 words. I was reasonably pleased and sent this draft to my story editor.
Since this is not ghost-written, you are safe to guess I chose to fix the problems. I addressed every issue. Sometimes changing a single word resolves the concern. Usually, I add more detail to allow the reader to better understand the character. Occasionally, I must shorten a scene (enough, already, Jim, I get the point), but more often I need to expand the scene (and what did she feel when that happened?) The manuscript grows to 84,000 words in draft 4.
Draft 5 is the chopping draft. Out go the unjustified “justs” (
This chopping process is not only about eliminating filler words. Often troublesome words lead me to discover convoluted sentences I can simplify for clarity. To be fair, I also find places I must add a word or two to allow the reader to share the meaning I intend. The combined effect of this revision makes False Bottom’s current draft 1,500 words shorter than draft 4.
My last process before sending the manuscript to the beta readers is an auditory review. I let my computer read the manuscript to me. My ear catches typos, double words, and missing words, that my eyes and spellcheckers have missed.
Authors: how does my process differ from yours?
Readers: does this surprise you?
James M. Jackson authors the Seamus McCree mystery series. Empty Promises, the fifth novel in the series—this one set in the deep woods of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula—is now available. You can and find more information about Jim and his books at .