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Sunday, November 15, 2015

 

The Publication Path, First to Last Draft

Last weekend, I attended a workshop on nonfiction writing, and the author had lined up a whole slew of her books. In front of the books, she’d placed a row of manuscripts. I’d assumed that each manuscript went with each book.

“Oh, no,” said the author, Heather L. Montgomery. “Those are the manuscripts I wrote for How Rude. And that’s not even all the manuscripts!”

How Rude, Real Bugs Who Don’t Mind Their Manners is Montgomery’s latest release, a fun and informative bug book published by Scholastic. She had the idea for the book nine years and way more than a dozen drafts ago.

Sure, there were other factors than the manuscript on this particularly winding path to publication. But like all publishing journeys, it began with an idea and the first draft.

For new writers, it’s hard to hear about seventh, eighth, tenth, twentieth, fiftieth drafts. When we finally put pen to page with a wonderful idea, we’re just proud to finish. But perhaps, reading over our work, we realize there could be improvements, and so we revise. Whew! The second draft is completed. But then, we decide to join a critique group and after a bit of feedback and revision, we have a third, or maybe even a fourth draft.

Four drafts should be enough, right?

Maybe. If you’re writing a short, 500-word article, you might need only a draft or two. But if you’re working on a 500-word picture book, you may need a ton of drafts. So how do you know when you’re done?

Having a critique group or critique partner is really helpful. They can look for consistency and continuity in your work with more objective eyes than you. And for novels, if you can afford it, an editor who can give you feedback on the big picture is invaluable. And often, you just need to give yourself time for the journey, whether it’s a fact-filled book or just a blog post.

A few days ago, I sat down to write a post on my personal blog with an idea about synchronicity and a book I’d read years ago. But midway through, in writing about my mom and a song and synchronicity, the post changed directions. And I was blessed with a remarkable insight, one that I might have missed if I’d rushed—and stayed on the track of my original idea.

The path to publication is not always an easy walk in the park. Sometimes, you have to follow the rocky road strewn with obstacles, or meander along, searching high and low, and unfortunately, you might find yourself at more than one dead end. But all those drafts will eventually lead you to the last draft, and a good home for all your hard work.

~Cathy C. Hall




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7 Comments:

Blogger Sioux said...

Cathy--Great post. Sometimes the path is not only strewn with obstacles. Sometimes you DO come to a dead end and have to find another path. However, just about every author I've heard of got lots of no's before they got a single yes.

The last draft... that's a sweet-sounding phrase.

1:29 PM  
Blogger Tricia Jenkins said...

HI, Cathy - Thanks for the reminder that writing is a journey!

5:12 AM  
Blogger Cathy C. Hall said...

Yes, Sioux, I agree: the last draft is music to my ears!

And yep, Tricia, it's quite the journey. But I wouldn't trade a minute of it! (Well, maybe a couple of those nasty rejections...:-)

7:36 AM  
Blogger Suzanne Pitner said...

Isn't it wonderful to write "The End?" But then isn't it wonderful to be excited about a new story or article idea? Isn't it wonderful when the story takes a turn of its own? Isn't it wonderful to find just the right turn of phrase? Don't you just love the writing process? Thanks for such a thoughtful post, Cathy.

1:02 PM  
Blogger Suzanne Pitner said...

Isn't it wonderful to write "The End?" But then isn't it wonderful to be excited about a new story or article idea? Isn't it wonderful when the story takes a turn of its own? Isn't it wonderful to find just the right turn of phrase? Don't you just love the writing process? Thanks for such a thoughtful post, Cathy.

1:02 PM  
Blogger Cathy C. Hall said...

Yes, yes, and yes, Suzanne!:-) I do so love the writing process, just as much as you do!

6:42 PM  
Blogger Lisa Ricard Claro said...

Great post, Cathy. One thing about the revisions and the submissions and the rejections and the revisions and the ultimate acceptance is how much sweeter the "yes" is after all that hard work!

8:18 PM  

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