So, you want to write a novel? With my current novel, so far, I’ve written 384,345 characters. 85,000 words. 84 Chapters… and still I’m writing the 2nd draft of The Brittle Land, book two in the Brittle Saga. My aim is to write 100,000 words and at that point I estimate I will have finished the 2nd draft. Then I will have to start all over again to make the 3rd draft into something more in depth. How many drafts will it take? I have no idea. The Brittle Sea took five or six drafts.
When you undertake to write a first draft for a novel, bear in mind it takes time. Going back and reworking it as a 2nd draft, i.e., filling in the holes and expanding it as well as making it a more cohesive work also takes time. And when you’ve done that, you should go back to the beginning again, and go a bit more in depth for your 3rd draft. As I’ve already mentioned, if you want to write a novel, it is not a race.
How many drafts do you expect to have to go through? That’s an impossible question to answer. Anyone who gives you a specific answer like two or three isn’t giving you a full picture. I’ve been told anything from four to ten (yes, ten) drafts for a fiction novel. It truly does depend on two things. How good a writer you are and how well your first two or three drafts turn out. Writing a novel of around 100,000 words is a bit like taking all the letters from a Scrabble game and throwing them on the floor, then trying to arrange them into a story that makes sense.
It’s a task, a hard task, and not one to be taken lightly. You are going to take as many drafts as it takes to get to that final manuscript, that thing of beauty that reads well, is gripping and a page turning masterpiece. So don’t expect this to be a simple thing to do, it’s a long and slow process, and you have only scratched the surface when you type those last two words with a satisfying feeling of finality – THE END. Because believe me, you are only at the beginning of the end.
It will seem a tantalisingly distant thing that will be so hard to achieve, the finality that is finishing your book, and you will be correct in that feeling. So, pay heed to this single piece of advice I’m offering. Be prepared for a long hard haul when you undertake to write your first novel. It’s going to be a lot like a covid-19 lockdown that seems to go on and on. Then the sun comes out and you realise you’re at the end and can open your front door and go out, only to have that door slammed in your face and told you are nowhere near the end, and still have a lot more to do before your novel is anything like completed. It’s a solitary life, being a writer, it’s a solitary, hard and gruelling life being a novelist, and that’s not even touching on writing a trilogy, one after the other, each as good as each other, each around 100,000 words in length.
It’s a tough life. There is no denying that. It’s a fact of writing a novel that many an aspiring novelist seem not to consider. Be prepared and don’t fool yourself it will be easy. Understand it will take a long, long time to write your novel. Like I said at the beginning, writing a novel is not a race.
Copyright © Tom Kane 2021
In case you’re wondering what The Brittle Saga is all about, click on the Preview button below to read a free sample of book one.