How many drafts do you need to do to get it right?

February 24th, 2017 by Bob Bly

Subscriber RL sent me this comment from the late suspense
novelist Robert B. Parker — one of my favorite commercial authors:

“I do first draft. I don’t revise. I don’t reread. I send it in.
They edit it. But they don’t make any significant changes.”

By comparison, Hemingway revised every morning. He claimed to
have written one of the pages of “A Farewell to Arms” 59 times.

George Plimpton asked him why. Was there some technical problem?
What was so hard?

Hemingway replied: “Getting the words right.”

Poet Donald Hall said he rewrote one of his poems 600 times.

And William Zinsser wrote, “The secret to good writing is
rewriting.”

Yes, but how MUCH rewriting?

The problem is this…..

For most of us, if we don’t revise and rewrite enough, our
writing is not as good as it could be.

On the other hand, if we do endless rewrites and edits, the piece
never gets finished — and if we are working on a flat project
fee, we end up making less than minimum wage.

To answer this question about the ideal number of rewrites, I
made a short video on the subject of “How many rewrites should
you do before you consider the piece finished.”

You can watch it free here:

I agree with actor Michael J. Fox, who said, “Strive for
excellence, not perfection.”

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