Typically, how many drafts do you complete — of a novel or novella — before you submit it to a publisher / editor / agent? Why?
To be perfectly honest, I’ve never counted. The first book I wrote was revised so many times it’s ridiculous. Not that I went over it from beginning to end each time I worked on it. Sometimes I’d just take a chapter and do just that one chapter, or maybe just a portion of the chapter.
In general, though, this is the way I write a novel. I first choose my hero and heroine and decide what kind of people they’ll be. I always name them a name that I think fits their personality. I then decide in general what the story is about. I have a beginning and an end, and the part in the middle is a mystery to me until I get started.
I work on my first chapter pretty hard. I’ll write it, and the next day I’ll read it. I make changes as I go. Then, the second day I read it again and usually find more changes. You only have one chance to hook readers so I want my first chapter to be good.
I’ll then start writing. I don’t always try to do a chapter a day. In fact, I seldom do, but the next day before I keep writing I’ll revise what I wrote the day before. Sometimes many revisions are necessary, and sometimes not so many, but I do revise before I continue.
When the book is finished I put it away for a while, sometimes for several months or more. Then, I start reading from the first chapter and make corrections as I go. And rest assured, there are always corrections to be made. Sometimes I wonder what I was thinking to write such a paragraph or sentence.
I put the book away for a few weeks and then do the whole thing over again. At that point I’m either mostly satisfied or still feel as if the book needs more work. I’ll find myself concentrating on key scenes to make sure I’ve got them right.
After all of this I’m ready to send the book to a publisher, editor, etc. I know that some people get the book professionally edited before they send it off, but I’ve never done that.
If the work is accepted it has to be edited again. To my surprise I always find glaring errors and parts that I dislike. So I work on the book again. After about two edits the book is ready to go, but you know what? Even after it’s been published I see parts I’d like to change. I think most writers want their work to be the best it can be, and there’s always that nagging little thing you see that you wish you’d changed.
So how many times do I edit a book? I don’t know for sure, but I never feel like I’ve done enough.