048: How to Write a Book in Five Drafts [Podcast]

We all want to write a book. We’ve got an idea or maybe just a dream, but we’re not sure where to go with it or what to do next. How do you know when it’s time to write that book and, more importantly, how do you write the book?

048: How to Write a Book in Five Drafts [Podcast]

That’s a question I get asked on a daily basis. So in this episode of The Portfolio Life, Andy and I break down the seemingly complicate process of writing a book into five simple, but not necessarily easy, drafts. I hope you like it.

Listen to the podcast

To listen to the show, click the player below. (If you’re reading this via email, click here).

You can also listen at iTunes or on Stitcher.

The five-draft method (how I write books)

People often ask me how I write a book or how long it takes. For me, writing a book takes about five different drafts.

Each draft has a unique goal in the overall process of creating a finished product you can be proud of. You can think of each of these drafts as a step to follow in taking a rough idea to a published work.

1. The Junk Draft

Essentially, in the junk draft you’re throwing up on the page. It’s going to stink. It’s going to be ugly. Your goal here is to get black on white and come up with about 75 percent of your content on to the page.

2. The Structure Draft

By this point you’ve got content in a rough format that’s poorly organized. The question you have to ask yourself is “Is this actually an idea good enough to be worth publishing or do I have to scrap this and start over?”

At this point in writing my latest book The Art of Work, I drastically changed the content to turn it into a book I think is worth reading.

3. The First Draft

Now you have an actual manuscript. You know the structure works but it’s not a well-edited work so you review the whole thing and make sure it makes sense.

4. The Surgery Draft

The Surgery Draft is exactly what it sounds like: cutting, slicing, and dicing content. You’re now ready to ask friends, editors, and members of your target audience into the process for their honest feedback. It hurts but you have to realize these early readers are trying to help you.

5. The Last Draft

Leonardo DaVinci once said,

Art is never finished; it is only abandoned.

This is where you abandon your book by letting it go, releasing it out into the world. You’ve spent a lot of time working on it, editing line-by-line, and making your book the best it can be but it will never be perfect. At some point you have to let go.

Let your book be great enough, be proud of it, and realize your next one will be that much better because of what you learned in writing this first one.


For more details on each of the drafts, check out the blog I wrote on the book-writing process.


What are you going to write your next book about? Share in the comments.