Sarah J. Carlson

Contemporary Young Adult Author

Non-writers just don’t understand…. Wait, how many versions have you written?


how many

So if my non-writer friends often struggle to comprehend how much work it takes to actually write a novel. It’s not just about getting it out of your head. Then you have to sculpt and perfect. The more you work at it, the more you see you can do to make it even better, until you reach the tipping point and you just have to stamp it done.

I THOUGHT I was close to stamping one of my novels done…. Until, during a re-write of the first chapter, I realized why I didn’t particularly care for one of the two POV characters. She didn’t have enough agency. Or spunk. All the sudden she went and completely evolved into a new, spunkier, more exciting character in my head. And now I have to pretty much re-write my entire perpetually-nearly-finished novel. Again. Draft 17 now.


Just kidding, I didn’t really do that, even though that’s kind of what I feel like doing.

It needs to happen, without a doubt. It’s absolutely why my readers were more drawn to the other POV character and why I didn’t even particularly care for her. Still it can be frustrating to be so close to “done” only to discover, crap, I’ve got much more work to do. Anyway, even though I’m feeling a bit lost as I work through it all, I know she will be much more compelling and my novel will be even better. I just have to take it slow and have patience with the character, myself, and the writing process as I work through it all.

Anyone share my pain? Have you ever had battles with your characters as they unfold in ways you don’t expect? What do you tell your non-writer friends?


13 thoughts on “Non-writers just don’t understand…. Wait, how many versions have you written?

    1. sjoycarlson Post author

      It’s a vicious, vicious cycle. I’ve gotten through like the very prelim re-write now and I’m starting to go though a bit more thoroughly and I’m starting to feel a bit better. But yeah, feels like it’s never done. I am going in the right (or write :P) direction though! Happy writing! lol.


  1. Natacha Guyot

    If any of my characters ever evolve as I am expecting them to, without straying once or a thousand times to do their own thing, I’ll let you know… I’m not counting on it.

    Yet, I don’t do so many versions. I do a lot of rewrite as I go, but not so much afterwards. I mean, when my editor comes back to me (fiction or nonfiction) with suggestions and comments, I study them and take them into account, but for the most part, I’d say that if I move to another section or chapter, I am likely to be “done” with it, at 80-90%. I have a very hard time writing multiple versions or going back to heavily edit something after I’m done with it, which is why I am not so much of a quick writer because I try to get things done, “rewriting” including bit by bit, as I progress.


  2. Sierra

    Whew boy do I ever know the feeling. I honestly can’t tell you how many drafts I went through with my current book.

    I try to look at it this way though: better you catch it than your readers. Every smudge you rectify on the manuscript makes it just that much squeakier clean for your audience.

    Also, it gets easier and the amount of drafts eventually decreases, at least it did with me, when you start actually publishing. 8 years vs. like 1 and a half is what I’m lookin’ at right meow.

    So it’ll get better. :] Until then, draft away.


  3. siouxtrett

    I’m so right there with you. I was in (what I thought was) my final edits, when BAM! here comes this big huge glaring problem that I’ve somehow never seen. Soooo frustrating. I know it’ll be a stronger story for it, but it’s a little daunting to be facing such MAJOR re-writes at this stage. And yet… here I go!


    1. sjoycarlson Post author

      Yep, sounds like we are pretty much in the EXACT same place LOL. I’ve gotten through the first initial re-write, very rough, so I’m feeling a bit more confident but still…. So much work ahead. But I’m excited, too, though, because I know it’ll be so much better when I finally do finish it. And I here you about the major plot hole discovery. I’ve had that happen to me as well!! At least we discovered it before we put it out there! We’re in this together.


  4. Jon Chaisson

    I’m thinking the infinite number of revisions of my trilogy is due to the fact that I was learning how to write (and revise) (and revise again) (and revise a bit more) (and rewrite the whole damn thing over from scratch) (and revise *that*) during the whole process. I’d like to think that my future projects won’t take nearly as long or have as many versions. 😉


    1. sjoycarlson Post author

      Haha feel your pain!! I’ve found each project tends to get easier but this particular one has been a challenge. I think a big part is I picked a complex setting/plot… Happy writing and best of luck with your rewrites!!


  5. paulareuben8

    It’s a shared pain. Sometimes in the middle of the night, my characters start arguing with each other. Or they say something incredibly clever. If I don’t get up and capture the comments, they are never there come morning.


    1. sjoycarlson Post author

      Noooo I hate it when that happens!! I also have that happen at awkward times when I just cannot write it down and by the time I can, it’s gone. Thanks for the comment and happy writing!


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