The Draft System

One of my favorite writing quotes of all time is Ernest Hemingway’s “The first draft of everything is shit.” It’s the one quote I truly take to heart when I’m working on something new or I’m editing something I’ve finally finished. It’s become a sort of grounding phrase to keep me from feeling too bad about how much my first draft sucks. So today here at Dare to Dream, I’m going to introduce you to the Draft System!

What is the Draft System?

The draft system is something I use to see how well I’ve progressed in my writing process. It is essentially when you do a draft, edit, redraft, re-edit, etc. until you feel content. Now this can range from two drafts or two-hundred drafts. It all depends on how comfortable you feel with your work.

With the Draft System, your work can shrink while you edit and grow while you draft, so it is always good to keep your word goal, or limit, in mind. For example, my short story in it’s first draft ended up over 6,000 words but my goal is to get it under 5,000 words to be able to submit it into a literary magazine. By editing it and redrafting I got it under 6,000, now I am re-editing and redrafting again I am hoping that I can get it closer to the limit I want it to.

Where You Can Go Wrong with this System

You can end up editing and redrafting too many times and create a work that is completely unrecognizable. If it stops sounding like you wrote it, then you have gone too far! This is why it is important to save all previous drafts when you edit. Do NOT just edit the document on the computer and overwrite. Always start a new document so you are really starting with a clean slate and can give your work a chance to speak to you and get your undivided attention.

On the other hand, you can do it too few times and create a work that is still really rough and is no where near ready to be submitted in any form. You have probably looked over a lot or maybe you just aren’t sure as to whether or not you are going to change something so keep plugging at it and you will find the right balance.

How Do I Know When to Stop?

The moment when you feel like your point is getting across but you don’t think you can edit anymore from it, you need to put it away. This is where you start going into getting some beta-readers lined up. They can and will be your best friends and your best critics! Mind you a post will be made on them later. 🙂

Any Last Tips?

Well there is one thing to keep in mind about the Draft System. It can take a very long time to get through, and it is monotonous! Do not be surprised if you get really tired of this piece after a while because you have read it so many times. If you need to take a break, take one. Take a couple weeks away to work on something else. Take a week and don’t write at all if you need to, just please don’t break up with your work just because you are tired of it. It is still worth working on.


So there you have it! The Draft System is what keeps the writing process going and takes the longest amount of time. It will probably drive you nuts but the end result is worth it. It makes it easier if you have a editing checklist on hand to know what to look for with each edit.

Do you have a certain system that you use when you go through drafting and editing? Are there certain things that you look for? Also, how do you edit your works, and know when is a good stopping point for yourself? Let me know in the comments!

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