I'm in the process of writing the second intense draft of my WIP in the hopes of sending it off to my agent say, oh, by the next millenium or something. In actuality I had hopes of firing it off by the end of this month. I'm thinking next millenium might be more realistic.
It's not that I'm not pleased with it. There are occasions when I'm busily transposing my long-hand scribbled first draft into clean, computer-literate, hopefully grammar-perfected second draft prose when I think, hmm, not bad. Or even, hey, I wrote that? Wow. There are more occasions when I think "Oh, crap. This is falling apart. Oh, double crap. That plot point just doesn't work anymore. I have to change that. Oh no!!! Beam me up, Scottie! The engine 'canna take no more' !"
But there's no brilliant Scottie to rescue me from disaster. Only me. And so I plow through hoping that by the time I have everything in nice, clean computer-screened impartiality I can step back from the completed second draft and not be so worried/emotionally invested in this story. Hopefully, I'll be able to see its strengths and, more importantly, its weaknesses with an objective readers eye and not a writer's paranoia. When I start reading it from the top - again - in what I call my 'Readers Intense Draft' stage I hope I'll be able to have fixed any major, glaring plot holes or added in some much needed character depth that will make the story more meaningful.
So, my hope is that by the end of this third draft it will be in good enough shape to send to the agent to get her impression, views and suggestions and then, once I get those, tackle the story again in the fourth intense draft. I call them 'intense' drafts because I don't consider the constant tweaking of language and nitpicking of dialogue or descriptions I do all along in every stage to be drafts. To me they are a constant part of the editing process. Intense, to me, is an in-depth, cohesive examination of all characters, motivations, plots and sub-plots to make sure the whole story works.
By about the fourth intense draft, if the story isn't working, if the characters don't seem real, if there is still some niggling problem that won't go away I'm in real trouble mister. I know some writers who write dozens of drafts until they feel the story is there. Some from scratch! Yikes! Like the incomparable Jack Nicholson said in Terms of Endearment "I'd rather stick needles in my eyes." But that's what works for them. If that gets the story out all power to them. For me if the story isn't gelling by at least the third draft and if it's definitely not there by the fifth, it's time to stick that baby under the bed for awhile.
What I'd really like to know is which novels made it to print after one draft. Like any? If so then those are gifts from a higher power and the writer should just bow down and thank their lucky stars. I wish it was that easy for me. But, hey, a book should have staying power right? If after four intense drafts and countless hours spent writing and re-writing the darn thing and I still think it’s a good story that's gotta say something.
Now, if you'll excuse me. I gotta get back to that second draft ...