Drafts: How many is too many?

Before starting my first novel, I’d not given much thought to how many drafts I would need to work through to complete my story. I thought I would just write it once, edit it and that’s that.

… This could be one of the reasons it seemed like such a daunting task for so many years. I put too much pressure on myself for it to be perfect pretty much immediately, and anything less than what I expected of myself meant that I’m not talented enough to be a writer.

But having interacted with many writers over the past few months, and having dived into it myself, I’m starting to understand and accept that it is a constant work in progress. The results of a poll I posted on Twitter, showed that 88% (of the 26 that participated) go through 3+ drafts, 4% do 2 drafts, and 8% get it done in just 1. That’s amazing!

  • One writer told me that she usually writes extremely detailed outlines (up to 10k words!) before starting the main piece. If the bulk of the story remains the same, even after multiple edits, then she considers it as only one draft.
  • Another writer shared with me that he does one draft; writing the book from start to finish and sometimes going back to add a new plot element if he’s stuck. He then moves onto editing.
  • And one writer has done at least five rewrites on theirs, and it will still need further revisions!


However, I’ve come to realize that the word ‘draft’ can take on various meanings and forms for different writers. So don’t feel that you have to stick to a certain number of drafts or even define the stages of your work with that term.

Look at Tolkien, for example. It’s said that it took him 12 years of writing (17, with breaks) to finish The Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit. I can’t imagine how many drafts, revisions, edits he went through in that time to get his story just as he imagined it.

Some stories, like Tolkien’s, consist of much more complex worlds and plots and may need longer to compose. But everyone has a different speed, and a different story to tell. Do what works for you.

5 thoughts on “Drafts: How many is too many?”

  1. I’ve currently started working on my own WIP, and I definitely understand. I’m no where near close to finishing it, but I’m definitely planning on printing out what I have done every once in a while to see my work somewhere other than my bright computer screen. That might make my life harder, to edit every little piece I write, but like you said, every person has their own meaning to the word draft. Great post.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I highly recommend reading out loud and changing the font or text/background color when doing any revising. I know I’ve read my WIP so many times my mind starts to autofill (what I call “Author Eyes”) in sentences even if there’s an error. By swapping around the visuals, it helps prevent you from missing obvious problems.

    Liked by 1 person

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