Q: Do Second Drafts Count As New Writing? A: For Me, They Do

One of the questions that came out of my article in The Daily Beast yesterday was whether or not I counted re-writing in my word counts. It is a good question, to say nothing of a natural one, when you see numbers like 400,000 words in a year.

The short answer is, yes, I do count rewriting in my word counts. I have scripts (above and beyond those I’ve made available on GitHub) that compare what I write each day to the previous day, and mark the differences in Evernote. Here’s a portion of what one such day’s effort might look like:

Big Al Excerpt

The stuff in red are words I’ve removed from the previous day. The stuff in green are words I’ve added. There is occasionally yellow text which is a change.

The important thing to know about my process is that my first and second drafts are complete rewrites. In the first draft, I tell myself the story. In the second draft, now that I know the story, I tell it to an audience. First and second drafts often look completely different, and in most cases, this is new writing to me.

Another thing to keep in mind is that I sometimes write something that I don’t keep in the story. I may try writing a scene in two or three different ways, and keep only one of them. But all three attempts are counted in my daily word counts because they represent writing I do. Not counting them would be like not counting pitches that weren’t in the strike zone, even though the pitcher is still throwing them.

For those interested in my process in detail, check out this post I wrote back in February called “Evolution of a Story from Idea to Publication: A Behind the Scenes Look.” In it, I use an example of a story I wrote late last year and sold early this year. I show the numbers for each draft, and I think by reading it, you’ll get a better idea of my process and why I count all of the words, even the “rewriting.”