Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Guest Post: Thoughts on Drafting and Editing from Debut YA Author Jessie Andersen

Julia: Jessie released her first book, At What Cost, this year from Astrea Press. Although not in the Christian genre, her book was published in the young adult genre and covers the theme of abortion from a Christian worldview perspective.

You might think that being a published author, I would consider writing my strength, but in reality, writing is my weak point. Honestly, I stink at the drafting part. Editing. Now there’s my strength.

When I write, I have to allow myself some room to write crap. My fellow authors and I like to call it ‘word vomit’. Just let whatever comes out, come out without worry of grammar, dialogue, character development or the like. Now that doesn’t mean I totally ignore those things as I write, but I can’t let plotting get in the way of my story. I basically have my story plotted before I begin, so I know where I want to go with it, but it’s the drive to the end that’s difficult. I get stuck up on the rocks and bumps that are word choice and imagery. So as often as possible, I skip over them…at first. Get to the end—that first rough draft—then I can go back and make the story my baby.

My process looks something like this: Word vomit a draft. This takes me about six to ten months. I hate that I write slowly, but with kids and house and life, I can’t devote as much time to the computer as I’d like. Once I get my first draft, which usually tops out at around fifty thousand words, I move to my favorite part: the editing. I say ‘editing’ but what I mean is the process of both editing and revising. I head back to the beginning and start reading. As I read, I expand, work on that imagery, add a character description or a new line of dialogue. If I happen to see some poor grammar, I fix it. If there’s a plot problem, I revise it as early as I can spot it. It’s a lot easier to do this sort of thing in the first draft or two. There’s less to change later on in the manuscript that way. Once I make it to the end of my draft, I’ve probably added a few thousand words or so. Then, I start again. And repeat. Again and again. Until I’m satisfied with the story. After about ten to fifteen drafts by me, I send it to a beta reader or two and wait for feedback. Then I revise again. Another three to five times until it’s perfect…absolutely perfect—at least until an editor finds more mistakes. J

Believe it or not, this part is fun for me. It’s the challenge of finding that perfect word that gets me excited. It’s overcoming the difficulty of creating a believable and interesting character. But I can’t do any of that until I have that first, horrible draft. So, I must leave you all now to head back to my work in progress and get to the end of that pile of word vomit. 
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Sherrinda said...

This was so helpful for me, because I got stuck in the editing. In my mind, I felt like I had to get the editing right the second time through it. This is stupid, really, but I never really thought about it as a "round in the ring" so to speak. To be able to say Round 1, then read through it, fixing what I see, then proceed to Round 2...that is like a light bulb for me.


I feel rather silly to admit that, but OH MY GOODNESS! Thank you!

Jeanne T said...

Such a great post. Thank you Jessie and Julia. I love the first draft, or the fast draft. I'm a plotter by nature, and I can pound it out quickly. What I'm finding is that my revisions are taking forever. Of course, life and now Christmas have eaten up a lot of my time.

It's good to read how you do your process, Jessie. Thanks for sharing that with us here. I guess I feel better knowing I'm going to be going through my story A LOT more. I'm working on my third time through, knowing I've got tons more. You've given me permission to go through it many more time, if need be. Thank you! :)

Laura said...

I'm exactly the same, my first drafts are always terrible because I have to have the initial idea written before I can make it perfect. I much prefer editing.

Anonymous said...

This is such an encouraging way to look at editing! I love the rough draft stage, but yikes on the editing. Great Post!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for stopping by everyone.

Sherrinda, if I had to fix everything by the second time, my writing would be horrific. I counted the editing passes after AWC was done. I think we got up to 28 between my 15, line editors, content editors, final editors, etc. It was crazy!

Jeanne, I wish I could crank out that first draft quickly! I have authors at my press who can do 3+books a year. I'm lucky if I can finish one.

Laura, glad to hear I'm in good company!

Thoughts, I love any part of writing, but I have to admit, I have to force myself into the computer chair to get that first draft. Add Christmas and a 12 mo old and it's even harder to sit and write.

Julia, Thanks for having me. It's been a pleasure.

I'm going to add my links to my book. As of this week, it's available in print and ebook.



Joanne Sher said...

First draft is hard for me too - and yeah, in general, the editing is fun. But I don't always see what needs to be fixed! That drives me crazy sometimes :)

This was helpful for sure. Thanks!

Julia M. Reffner said...


It is a helpful insight.


Isn't it freeing in some ways to know its OK to take lots of tries at revision.


You're welcome. Thanks especially for sharing how many revisions you needed, I'm sure that will be comforting to many here.

Anonymous said...

Joanne, I consider myself an editor. Even do some freelancing on the side and I can never see my own errors. It goes with the territory.

Julia, It's amazing how many times during the editing process one can think her work is "Perfect" only to find out...it's not!

Susan Anne Mason said...

So glad to know I'm not the only one who does like a million revisions! Thanks for that, Jessie.

Brave topic you tackled and a beautiful cover!

Best of luck!