It Only Took Sixty-Three Drafts to Learn How to Write

Posted Pete Bauer Author, Faith, Gabby Wells, Novel, Screenplay, story telling, Writing

Writing can be a painful experience.

I spent the majority of my life around, involved in and pursuing a life in film.  I studied it, I performed in it, I wrote for it, I directed it and I loved it.  Some of my work made it to Hollywood, but most was of the independent nature.

The combination of my faith and my passion for film led to the creation of Sonlight Pictures, where the character of Gabby Wells first emerged.

When I decided to attempt to convert the first season of television scripts about Gabby Wells into the first novel in the series, I had virtually zero training in writing novels.  My experience over the last 20 years revolved solely and completely around screenplays.

But I like a challenge.  And, I figured, worst case scenario, my novel sucks but I’m a better writer for having tried.

rewrite-redpenThe first few drafts of the first Gabby Wells novel were simply conversion pieces, taking the scripts and morphing them into novel form, finding the many gaps that needed to be filled with character back story, internal drivers and emotional damage.

It wasn’t until about draft 50 that my daughter said “We actually have a novel now.”

Fifty drafts.  I didn’t expect the learning curve to be that steep.

Around draft 60 I had exhausted all I could muster in making this novel work.  It was as good as it was gonna get considering my skill level at the time.


That is until my daughter suggested something rather drastic.

I was working on converting the second season of television scripts into the second novel and was not looking forward to repeating the daunting task of trying to master a new writing style while converting my material from my old writing style.  It’s just a tough haul.

So, after hearing me complain about the impending frustration, she suggested that I forgo everything I had done before and start writing the second novel from scratch.  I know the story, just tell it as the writer I am now, not the writer I was when I wrote the screenplay.

To my amazement, it worked.  The first chapter was smooth and interesting and funny and draws you in.  I must say, it’s pretty dang good.

It was so good, in fact, that it made me realize something horrible.

I had to do the same thing with the first novel.  After 63 drafts, I had to scrap it and write it all over again, from scratch.

Sure, I’ll be able to pilfer quite a bit of the more polished sections of the text from draft 63, but the feel, the mood, the style, the approach will be completely different.

I’m not happy about it.  From concept to screenplay to novel, I’ve been living/writing this story repeatedly for almost five years.  I want to be done in the worst way.

But, not until its as good as I can make it and, unfortunately, I can make it better.

At least one for one more draft.

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