Author and podcaster Jeff Goins has a great productivity podcast, and a while back he discussed the five drafts or stages your writing goes through. Here’s my summary:
- Junk Draft: Get the bulk of your idea out on paper, 500 to 1000 words a day for several months. May take longer if you have research to do. No real corrections or editing needed.
- Structure Draft: You’ve got 80% of the content done, but you analyze the flow and structure. Question to ask yourself: “Does this make sense? How does it sound/feel? Should I move forward or scrap this?”
- Rough Draft: Fill in the gaps in your new structure. Move stuff around to match your structure. Do some initial simple copy editing. Research should be about 90% done at the end of this stage.
- Surgery Draft: Time to cut out the fluff. Does this topic/section need to be said at all? Is it germane or just one of your hobby horses? “All great writing is rewriting.” Remove unnecessary sections and illustrations. Get feedback on what they like, what they don’t, what is missing.
- Last Draft: At this point, do line by line editing, make it parsimonious. Read it out loud. If you stumble reading it out loud, it’s too complex. When you are done, you have to release it. “Art is never finished, only abandoned.” (DaVinci)