I use the term "draft" lightly. I'm not 100% sure what it really means. For the sake of this blog, use this:
"A state of a manuscript that has achieved a specific function, usually the result of a comprehensive edit with certain goals in mind."
I just finished the fourth draft of A Sawmill's Hope. Then I sent it away to the test readers. I'm glad to be rid of it but it literally wasn't ready until that moment.
I learned this the hard way. I started the novel a year ago, having never written much more than was required at school then college. I finished in six months, squeezing writing time in between everything else that made up my life. I wrote often, but I believe I could have finished it sooner. I could have taken advantage of more late evenings or early mornings.
But I did finish. And it was a mess.
By this point I had listened to podcasts, watched videos, read books, read blogs, joined websites, and so on. Basically doing everything I could to better my writing knowledge. I tried to figure out the reasons behind the 'rules'; don't be passive, don't use adverbs, etc. I started my own blog and practiced showing off words I had written for the approval of others.
I started my second draft. In this one, I wanted the personality of my characters to stand out. During this, I added two more points of view (to already existing characters) and began to weed out passive voice, and I added flavor to voice in general. This draft was finished in three months.
But I still wasn't thrilled with the book. I knew very well that it needed work.
In the third draft, I re-evaluated 65 chapters and compressed them to 20. This works for my book because it is a fantasy, not a thriller / suspense / horror (though it has certain elements of each). I don't end each chapter with a cliff hanger. Some I do, some I don't. I realized I was seeing themes begin to emerge in the chapters. I took this into consideration and gave the chapters names. I also began to write the antagonist into the book. I did this in the form of letters to his father (1st person), interspersed throughout the book. The beauty is that the themes of each chapter remained applicable. For example, in the chapter I introduce the friends and family of one of the main characters, I also introduce the best friend of the antagonist.
This draft took two weeks. I wasn't quite done.
It was then about ten months since I started the book. I had been writing notes in a notepad in my phone. Sitting on the couch, driving to work (I know, sue me), working, hiking, riding, whenever. These were ideas, fixes or consistency issues that I realized needed to be applied to the story.
This is why I began the fourth draft. I caught all these fixes with relative ease. Then I simply read through, checking one last time for consistency and theme delivery, relationships and chapter breaks.
I also did a "now" run. (I'm going to write a whole blog on that.)
I wish I had taken time for an "and" run.
I finished the fourth draft in about 24 days.
My point is that regardless of where this book goes, regardless of where my career in writing goes and regardless of how few people may actually take the time to read my ramblings, I have learned things in the last year that I want to share. I want to take what I've learned of writing, editing, genres, critiques, and whatever else I can think of that might help and get it to you.
That said, keep your eyes open. I will start soon.
If it turns out I'm a fool who speaks foolishness, don't stop reading, wise men (and women) can learn from fools.