How Many Drafts Does It Take?

When I first started writing, I often wondered how many drafts it would take me to “complete” my manuscript. Before I could submit it places for publication, how many drafts would I have to write, edit, rewrite, and the like? Of course, the more I wrote, the more I realized there’s no true answer to how many drafts does it take to write a novel?

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My First Manuscript

I completed the first draft of my very first novel back in 2010. It’s been nine years and I don’t even know how long since I last touched it. I still have the manuscript and I’m on the eighth draft. It’s still not done. At this point, it will never be done.

Being the first novel I had ever written, I know it’s not going to see the light of day. I’m not even sure if I like the idea enough to ever go back to it and try to rewrite the story. Maybe someday I’ll share some bits of it, but today is not that day.

I Thought I Needed A Lot Of Drafts

Of course, that particular novel had a lot of drafts because I didn’t know much of what I was doing. I thought it needed to be perfect, which there is no such thing. I also thought that having multiple drafts and a crap ton of ink-filled paper meant that I was a “real writer.” That novel wasn’t a manuscript unless I had a handful of stacks of that same manuscript riddled with black and red ink.

But you don’t need a lot of drafts. You just need as many as you think it will take to tell the story at a polished level. When do you know it’s polished? That’s harder to tell because we all strive for the novel to be as perfect as can be.

It Depends On Style And Genre Too

I write mostly novels. I have written a couple of novellas. I have written short stories and compiled them into a collection. I’ve even written poetry and scripts. I find the longer it is, the more drafts you may have. You can’t catch everything in one sitting.

I was on my second or third draft of George Florence and the Perfect Alibi before I rewrote the whole book with a POV change. Now I’m on the third or fourth draft of that. So, you figure all together I have about six or seven drafts of that manuscript. Meanwhile, my novellas on Wattpad only took one round of edits.

It’s All Up To You

Whatever you think you’re novel needs, do it. Just don’t overdo it.

How many drafts do your novels typically take until they’re complete? Let me know in the comments below. If you liked this post, please share it around.

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11 thoughts on “How Many Drafts Does It Take?

  1. This is like the question, “How long is a piece of string?”
    The answer to your question, Rachael, is however many it needs in order to be the very best!

  2. I think it probably depends on when any new changes give limiting returns – when, by editing further, you must sacrifice something in order to satisfy another rule. That is when it’s done.

  3. The most drafts I’ve done is 10, most of my other books are about 3… I think I end up with fewer the more writing experience I get, but sometimes there are stories that need more!

    • Well said. I have less drafts now that I know what to expect and have learned more. Still, there’s always a little more room for improvement.

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