An Explanation of Book Drafts

Written By: Timothy Fish Published: 6/7/2007

As far as I know, there is no set definition of each draft of a book, but the definitions that I present here are what I use as a way to help keep me on track as I work through the process of creating a book. Technically, each draft could have several different revisions, which would mean there are additional drafts. I work toward each draft as if it is the goal of each step. When workding toward a first draft, for example, I am more relaxed about some of the things that I will be dealing with in the other steps.


The outline is the very first pass at writing a book. It is optional. Some people find it very useful and some do not. An outline contains the bare skeleton of the story. It may contain information about the characters and back-story that will not appear in the book. It is much easier to change an outline than to move, remove or rewrite sections of a book.

The First Draft

The first draft is all about getting it on paper. The author knows the basic story, but until he fleshes it out in the form of a first draft, he can tell the whole thing in five minutes. The first draft is always bad, but that does not matter. The point is to get something on paper.

The Second Draft

The second draft is the draft in which the author moves major sections of the story around. Often, he will discover thing like that he does not need to use ten pages to talk about someone going to the mall because no one really cares. Removing those pages makes the story shorter, but it makes the book more interesting. Major sections and chapters may need to be rewritten. This is done in the second draft.

The Third Draft

While creating the third draft, the author is mostly concerned with sentence structure and how often words and phrases are reused. In fiction, the author has to be concerned about whether the dialog sounds realistic or not. Does a character know something that he should not? Would the character say that? Is the character telling another character something that the other character should already know? We would not want, for example, a son to tell his mother, I really appreciate that you went into excruciating labor for twelve hours on April 20, 1968 to have me. The one exception would be if the son was making fun of his mother for reminding him of this event.

The Fourth Draft

This draft is mainly about proofreading. In creating this draft, the main focus is word usage and spelling errors as well as punctuation. If the author is sending the manuscript off to a publisher, this is the draft that he will send. The editor will make suggestions and point out mistakes. The editor may send it back to the author for revision, so the next draft may be one of the previous two drafts. Usually, it will not go all the way back to the first draft level.

The Fifth Draft

Whatever means was used to create the first four drafts, the fifth draft is done using some kind of publishing software. The main focus here is to produce a book. The author may have little or no input other than having provided a completed fourth draft. The person who creates this draft will copy the fourth draft in to the publishing software and will lay out the pages. Here the text size and font will be set. The graphics that are included in the book will be added. The cover will be created. Copyright information will be added. Once this draft is completed, it can be sent off into the printing stage of the process.