I now have drafts of the first three novels in my crime series set in Scarborough, North Yorkshire. All these drafts are at different stages. I imagine everyone has their own way of drafting, re-drafting, re-writing, editing. My process is a spiralling one, whereby I go back and back to the material, but I am never quite touching the same point twice.
Feedback is a very important factor in my drafting process. Feedback at the right moment and from people I can trust. I will normally write quite freely to start with, printing out as I go and then scribbling on the print out as new things occur to me.
I will do a re-read and re-write incorporating these scribbles and then give out to feedback. This should then inform my next re-write. I usually leave the material at this point and come back to it later for another round of reading-writing-scribbling plus more comments from others if I feel I need them. This should bring me to my final draft. After this is complete, I will read with my editor hat on and there maybe some editing to do. The last stage is proof reading, but I would always prefer someone else to do this.
The Art of the Imperfect (novel 1) is in its final draft and I am ready to read it as editor rather than author before releasing it to the proof reader. The Art of Survival (novel 2) is receiving feedback from trusted writerly friends. And The Art of Breathing (novel 3) is in its chaotic first draft form.
I also think there is an art to knowing when to let go of a draft, move onto editing, proof reading and then release it to an audience. I know writers who get stuck drafting and re-drafting, never completely satisfied, caught in ever-decreasing circles. At least my spiral should eventually throw me outwards. And there will always be another book, another article, another opportunity to say what we meant to say, but didn’t quite, in the previous one. I believe that all creative endeavour – all life – is an attempt at The Art of the Imperfect.