‘Railroaded’, my soon to be published and global bestseller, has so far taken 4 drafts to get to an acceptable level to send out to agents.
I’m not saying they ain’t going to LOL all the way to another 4 course lunch at The Ivy, I’m just saying they’d be laughing even harder had it been the 3rd or the 2nd draft. The 1st was beyond ROFLMAO.
So what happened in the 4 drafts of Railroaded?
The 1st draft officially started around October 2007. I did a Max Barry writing course at Chuck Palahniuk’s website and one of the first exercises was to write the first 200 words or so to 4 different stories. I picked Railroaded as one of these starters.
But let’s go back.
Before the official first draft, there were about 3 years of procrastination and ‘research’. I’ve got a whole notebook of notes, story ideas, setting ideas, situations, future predictions, potential characters and more. Just notes though, nothing concrete, pursuing different ideas and themes until some bits resonated enough to be expanded on in the form of a novel.
After all this ‘fannying-around’ I did actually start my unofficial first draft around April 2007. This is unofficial only because of it’s unmitigated shitness.
I stopped after 2 chapters as I realised it was going nowhere. A few months later info about the Max Barry course, ‘Get Your Novel Started’ or something like that, arrived in my inbox like a sign from a higher power. It was really good and Max is not only a great writer but he knocks together a pretty good video lesson too.
So I was off!
The first draft was completed in November 2008, taking just over a year. I gave myself a month or two off until after the New Year to get some breathing room before starting the second draft. I wrote a short story in this time, which was great fun, as I was still writing but it had nothing to do with my novel. A novelty, if I can be so crassly cheap.
I then started the second draft by simply reading the first draft all the way through and making changes as I went. Alot needed changing, updating, correcting and fixing, but it read pretty well and was structured in a sane way as I always planned out about 3 or 4 chapters ahead.
I rewrote one chapter after reading a writing book stating don’t have people just sitting down and talking, as I read that bit of advice I fully comprehended immediately how boring and unexciting that chapter of stodgy exposition really was. I also rewrote the ending after reading ‘Fatherland’ by Robert Harris during this time, as the ending in that book is just brilliant and made me realise how crap mine was. My laptop also decided to die so I had to buy another one but I still managed to finish it by Easter 2009.
My third draft only took about a month as I tightened up what I’d corrected before and the bits I’d rewritten. After that I was confident it wasn’t totally pants and it was time to get some external feedback (I’ll go into more details about this whole process later), so I printed out 10 copies and gave them to a variety of people. A month or two later I had 4 back and a load of comments and corrections to think about; sentences and concepts needing clarifying or rethinking. The 4th draft involved going through this feedback and making changes.
So here I am, 4 drafts later, happy with the result and starting the next challenge of getting someone in the publishing game remotely interested in it.