The Publication Path, First to Last Draft
“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