That liberated me, and I was finally able to finish a first draft. I’ve written that way ever since. I honestly hate first drafts, but once that’s done, I know that the worst part is over, and the rest is pure creativity and art. I think my second draft is probably the most fun. I dig in at that point, revising and rewriting every line, getting more creative with descriptions and characterization, going deeper into point of view and thinking the way the characters think, and doing more specific research that will help me describe things more accurately. With each draft, the book gets more and more readable, but I don’t consider it publishable until I’ve written it through several times.
Just to be clear, I consider a “draft” to be a version of the book that is vastly different from the version before it. If I’ve just made a few tweaks or corrections, I don’t consider that another draft. My latest book, Twisted Innocence, probably went through seven complete drafts before the book was ready to be in stores. Because I wanted the message of this novel to resonate with readers—the message that God isn’t disgusted with you, that he knows why you’re the way you are, that he still has big plans for you—I didn’t want to risk disappointing them with sloppiness. If they are willing to invest their time in my creation, I need to provide as much excellence as I can.
My husband and I have an agreement that, if I die while working on a first draft, it will be as if that book doesn’t exist. He won’t turn in a first draft to my publisher, because I would be horrified for anyone to see it. Trust me, it’s bad. I’m not all that comfortable with anyone seeing Draft 2 or 3, either. I work in layers, and it’s not until all the layers are stacked on top of each other that my book is finished. No one sees it until that’s done. After that, my editors will suggest changes, and I’ll go in again for at least two more drafts.
I think some people believe that the creative process is something that comes easily, and that writers just open some kind of word valve and the story pours out. It’s not that way with me. For me, writing is extremely hard work, and it never gets easier. Parts of it are very gratifying. A good writing day gives me a sense of well-being like nothing else can. But other parts can be pure drudgery, and a person with a too-short attention span or a poor work ethic will not be able to do it.
I see new writers taking all kinds of shortcuts in the creative process. In these days of easy, inexpensive self-publishing, writers can skip all the vetting that once told us whether our work was ready for the world (or not)—vetting by potential agents, professional editors, publishers, contests, critique groups, etc. Wise writers, traditionally or self-published, take time with each book and embrace ways to have their work professionally vetted.
In 1994 Terri was writing romance novels under two pseudonyms for publishers such as HarperCollins, Harlequin, Dell and Silhouette, when a spiritual awakening prompted her to switch gears. At the time, she was reading more suspense than romance, and felt drawn to write thrillers about ordinary people in grave danger. Her newly awakened faith wove its way into the tapestry of her suspense novels, offering hope instead of despair. Her goal is to entertain with page-turning plots, while challenging her readers to think and grow. She hopes to remind them that they’re not alone, and that their trials have a purpose.