Tuesday, December 20, 2011

How Many Drafts Does It Take To Make a Loaf of Bread?

First, to those celebrating, I wish you a very happy first night of Hanukkah.

Today my guest is editor Brittiany Koren. I had the pleasure of working with her when she was assigned as my editor for my first two Blackthorne, Inc. novels. In addition to editing for Tekno Books, she collaborated on five anthologies for DAW Books. She also created the White House Gardener series with author, Dorothy St. James, for Berkley Prime Crime. She recently started her own editorial business, Written Dreams.

And a brief update--Brittiany emailed me last night apologizing that her work schedule changed, and she won't be near her computer as often as she'd like today. But she's looking forward to reading and responding to your comments--it'll just be much later in the day than she'd hoped. 

Thank you so much, Terry, for inviting me to be your guest. I’m excited to be here!

Most writers, in my opinion, submit their manuscript too early to publishers, perhaps thinking editors at publishing houses will help them with needed revisions. Unfortunately, in today’s marketplace editors don’t have that luxury, and a manuscript rejected because it is not well-written. Revising is an important part of the writing process. Here’s my recipe for a well-revised manuscript…

So, you just finished your first draft. Congratulations! Finally, after months of hard work it’s time to submit to a publisher. Wrong. Your manuscript has only the broad strokes at this point. It’s time for your first draft revision.

Think of your manuscript as a simple recipe of white bread. You have flour (characters), yeast (plot), salt (climax) and water (setting) combined in a ceramic bowl. That’s your first draft.

What’s a good period of time to let your manuscript rise? A week to a month. As a writer, you need time away to distance yourself, and forget. This gives you an objective point of view to do the next stage in the writing process. Revision.


No matter what type of writer you are, you may leave out important little details in that first draft that will more than likely come easily when revising the second draft. Using the bread recipe, these little details are like spices flavoring your basic white bread. Specific details added in about setting, characterization, plot, dialogue, tension, conflict, and timing are so very important in making a stereotypical character live and breathe in a world readers can relate to.

Okay, you’ve just finished your second draft, reading all the way through it, adding in great details that even you didn’t realize about the main character. You also added in wonderful details on setting, and maybe fixed a plot hole you didn’t see before. What’s next? Submission? Not yet.

This time take a minimum of 48 hours away from your manuscript. Your bread has had time to rise. Punch it down gently so it can begin to rise fully. In your third draft, be critical of the grammar, punctuation, transitions from sentence to sentence, paragraph to paragraph, and chapter to chapter. Be critical every word your characters say is in their own voice. Be aware of how you’re “showing” and not “telling” the story to your readers. And be sure to spend the same amount of time on the middle and ending as you do on the hook and the first three chapters. Now, it’s time to bake.

Is it time? Close. Your first batch of bread has baked in the oven. It’s time to taste-test it to see if it’s any good. Your manuscript is ready to send out to your trusty First Readers, writers in their own right, who will give you an honest opinion. They may catch a few things you missed in earlier revisions. That’s great! But give yourself some credit. You got the manuscript this far.

Weigh your First Readers’ edits/questions carefully keeping in mind their own success in the field before changing anything dramatic in your manuscript. Thank them for their help. Now, it’s off to fix those pesky typos you missed, and bake another batch of bread.

Your recipe has been perfected as best you can make it. It looks great and tastes even better. You’ve spent countless hours on it, perfecting it, making it your own, and adding in your own blend of flavor. You feel confident you’ve given it your all. You have engaging characters, an interesting storyline, and a great conflict. The ending will give your readers pure enjoyment.

Yes, now it is time to submit your manuscript to a publisher. So submit it and forget it. It’ll be a while before you receive a response. But don’t sweat it. You’ve written a wonderful story. You’ve made the bread you’ve set out to bake, and someone out there should like it. Hopefully.

And if they don’t, that’s okay. Just try a new recipe. Perhaps with a different brand of flour or a little less yeast this time. Sometimes it takes a few tries before a recipe is successful.

Good luck!

Brittiany will answer any questions as soon as possible related to the blog post. You may contact her directly at Brittiany@writtendreams.com with any editorial questions not related to this blog post.

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18 comments:

Terry Odell said...

Hi, everyone. Brittiany has to be away from her computer most of the day, but she promises to answer questions and respond to comments as soon as she can, so please feel free to ask away.

Maryann Miller said...

Very nice way to illustrate the editing and revising process, Brittiany, and so glad to see you here.

Calisa Rhose said...

Welcome, Brittiany. I was wondering what the 'three steps of editing' I've heard of is? Thanks for being here to answer questions.

Marian L said...

Excellent advice, Brittiany, thank you so much for it. Terry I love your blog I learn so much all the time. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone. Marian

Cindy Keen Reynders said...

This is an excellent way to describe the editing process. I love it!

Liz said...

I just got my first R&R from one of my "business plan target" publishers. I.e. I am excited. I did submit that MS to 2 rounds of critique and a line edit. I am to "expand" the story as they want more but I still got a "fix pacing and some sentence structure problems" too even after all that. So I'm hiring a professional for a fairly nominal charge to help me with that. Fresh eyes on every MS at least 2 if not 4-5 times. That's my mantra.
cheers
Liz

Sisters of the Quill said...

Thank you Terry. I've already emailed Ms. Koren with my question!

lprobinson64 said...

I truly enjoyed this encouraging post. Thank you.

Karen C said...

As a reader - I enjoyed the post and loved the analogy!

Brittiany Koren said...

Thanks, Maryann. I hope it helped!

Brittiany Koren said...

Hi Calista,
There are different approaches, of course but the Three Stages of Editing I've heard of is: 1) Write, Let Go, and Revise (like my example I use with the rising bread). 2) Read the manuscript out loud (Editing it as you read). 3)Using Strunk and White's The Elements of Style to help you through the revision process.

I hope this helps!

Brittiany Koren said...

You're very welcome, Marian. I'm glad you enjoyed it!

Brittiany Koren said...

Thanks, Cindy!

Brittiany Koren said...

Good luck, Liz! Persistence is important.

Brittiany Koren said...

Dear lprobinson, Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Brittiany Koren said...

Hi Karen, Thank you!

Brittiany Koren said...

To everyone who visited Terry's Place today, and for those who left comments, thank you. It's been a pleasure! May you all have happy and safe holidays.

Terry, as always, I thank you. You have come so far in such a short time, and I'm so happy for your success!

Joanna Aislinn said...

Great tips, Brittany. Thanks so much for sharing them and to Terry for providing the forum. Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas everyone!