What Changes From the First Draft to Publication?

With the release of Seconds Before Sunrise only one week away, I have been thinking about how much The Timely Death Trilogy has changed from the original version to the published novels. Since the second book isn’t released yet (but is available on Amazon) I thought it would be neat to share some of the major changes that happened in Minutes Before Sunset from the original version to the final publication. That way, when the second novel is out for a little while, I can share those changes, too.

Now, as many of you know, there are many drafts of one novel – sometimes a lot more than what writers want to be reminded of. The changes you are about to read about happened over a series of rewrites and edits, so that’s why there are so many changes. If I had to guess, there was one absolute rewrite and an uncountable number of edits. I had about six beta readers on the original versions of the trilogy, but I had three on the version read today. This isn’t my norm. This just happened because I wrote the novels between 2005 and 2009, so Minutes Before Sunset had seven years between writing and publication. I had many opportunities to refine it both as I was writing the last two novels and when I went back the last time before its second version was published. But – alas – here we are:

Length: Be open to cutting it down (or even expanding it!) 

For me, most of my novels are 136,000 words, but I almost always cut it down to 80,000 by often combining scenes and characters or by cutting them out completely. Minutes Before Sunset was my first instance where this happened, and maybe I’ll share cut scenes one of these days, but they might not even work anymore with the current storyline. I actually love cutting down the word count. It challenges me to create more meaningful scenes, and it definitely forces me to push the plot forward with numerous reasons (like action and detail) rather than having separate chapters for everything.

Character names: (It’s okay to change names. Just have a purpose)

Jonathon isn’t sure how he feels about this.
Pierce (shade form of Jonathon) isn’t sure how he feels about this.

I’m sure why this one stuck out the most to me, although my guess would probably stem from the fact that I still see them as their original character names. So why change them? I’ll get to that in a second. Below you’ll see a small list of original character names followed by their publication name.

Colton changed to Noah. Brent to Jonathon. Jonathon to Pierce. Brethan original had both a dark and a human name, but now he is only referred to by his Dark name. Jessica had a Dark name as well. And Eric’s previously girlfriend is almost impossible to remember how many changes she went through.

These changes happened for many reasons, but they mainly happened to keep a character distinct from one another. I couldn’t have a “Brent” related to a “Brenthan.” I mean, I could…at first, I wanted it that way because they were brothers, but I realized I could play on identities in a more psychological way rather than physical name. In the future, I will write more tips on naming characters, since I’ve done it before. Fun fact: a lot of editors/publishers changes character names to be more memorable. My publisher didn’t do anything like that, and I’m really happy I got to keep my “common” names for my human characters, like Eric, Jessica, and Teresa – because the normalcy of their names was intentional, allowing their paranormal names to be more effective, like “Shoman” “Bracke” or “Eu.”

A lot changes in editing, but it mainly happens during rewrites.
A lot changes in editing, but it mainly happens during rewrites.

Location: It can be really hard to change this, but it can also be worth it. 

Kansas – Originally, I wasn’t going to have a town at all. (Of course, there would be one, but it wouldn’t have a name, and I definitely didn’t want to mention the state.) At first, I wanted this town to seem like it could be anywhere, but then I realized it could seem that way while still being physically located somewhere, so after much consideration, I went with Kansas for many reasons, mainly because I don’t feel like many novels take place in the Midwest, especially paranormal or YA books.

Events: Don’t be afraid to add or take scenes away.

The Naming – the ceremony at the beginning of Minutes Before Sunset was actually added last minute. It was in the trilogy, but it was shown much later. I decided to show it in the beginning because I realized it could help ground the rituals of the Dark while also showing where the identities happen.

The ending – I actually don’t want to spoil too much, but the actions Jessica took in the final scenes with Darthon originally didn’t exist. The way to kill him wasn’t in it either. But she’s a fighter – more than most characters actually – and I knew in the editing that I had to include her in the fight. Plus, it allowed a foreshadowing for the third novel I’ve been dying to add without changing the story too much.

Other than that, a lot of dialogue changed and a few character appearances weren’t originally there. I even flipped a few chapters around and cut out other chapters completely. But it all ended up being the same story – I just needed to edit it to find out where certain scenes actually took place.

Perspective: Another difficult area to change.

At first, I showed Jessica’s shade side, but in the rewrite, I choose not to show her paranormal perspective in the first novel. She originally was named at the end of the first novel, too, but it didn’t feel right for reasons that will be explained in the third novel, Death Before Daylight. (Dun. Dun. Dun.) I also wanted to show a few scenes from Darthon’s perspective, but I never wrote one, because he’s a loud mouth. His identity would’ve been revealed in seconds. That doesn’t mean I didn’t consider it during rewrites, though. It just didn’t work out.

Other: Have fun with the small stuff, but it can shape a character.

I already wrote about cars, but Eric originally drove a 2009 Charger instead of an older version. Mindy had a more important role (I even considered having her completely aware of the Dark and the Light) in the first novel. And some of the characters’ descriptions changed. Surprisingly, the attitudes of the characters didn’t change a lot through the first novel, but they do later on! In my other novels, I have found that my characters have chanced dramatically from one version to the next, but this trilogy is an exception, probably because I wrote the second book first.

My changes in the first novel actually heavily impacted the changes in the second novel, and I am looking forward to being able to share that with everyone once the second novel has been released for some time. In fact, I think most manuscripts change a lot from the first draft to the final piece. I actually had to look a lot of my changes up in my notes from the first draft because it becomes difficult to remember everything that you discard or morph into something new.

What about you? What has changed from your first draft to your published work? I feel like this has an endless array of possibilities, but these are just a few of mine. I would love to hear about your novels and manuscripts. Share below!


Minutes Before Sunset is on sale until book 2 releases March 27!
Minutes Before Sunset is on sale until book 2 releases March 27!

19 thoughts on “What Changes From the First Draft to Publication?

  1. I’ve only just started my second draft (publication still years away, if ever!) and I already have a ton of changes in the pipeline.

    Firstly: the pacing on my first draft came out far too slow, so this time around I’m aiming to speed things up a great deal; if this results in the story becoming too brief, then I’ll expand it out again in different ways. Various changes have also been made to characters’ backstories, and the world of the novel has had several additions made to it between drafts.

    I reckon I’ll have to change some names around at some point, also: too many names seem to end with an “a” right now, and too many sound overly British when there is no reason for them to be.

    I didn’t realize that editors and publishers would change character names, though. Very interesting; thanks for the info 🙂

    1. Thank you for sharing your story! I have had some of those same experiences (plot being too slow, for instance.) I always enjoy speeding things up in the edits. For me, I’m often going back to adjust ages in order to make their backstory fit perfectly. It sometimes backfires and gets confusing from draft to draft.

  2. This was really valuable for me to read right at this moment, engaged in preparation for writing my third draft; thanks for sharing! I didn’t know that about editors changing characters’ names haha, glad to hear they didn’t do that with yours!

    1. Those types of editors are generally with traditional publishers. There are some interesting articles about famous writers and their characters’ original names. I am glad this helped you in some way!

  3. Some great points. The changes are always a bit difficult to make for me. editing takes a lot of time and I get a bit down thinking my work needs so much re-working. But in the end it is always worth it, and my stories end up ten times better for it!

  4. With my first book, I changed a character name and expanded some scenes. Since it was based on a Dungeons & Dragons game, there weren’t any original scenes that had main characters alone except for the one I played. So I learned how to add ‘times to shine’ for supporting cast when beta readers told me who they thought needed more to do. Ended up being nearly everyone though. Since then, I trying to give every character a special moment and a path even if it’s only in my notes.

  5. Just finished Book 2 and I’m working on the review for it right now – should be published by the weekend. I loved it! All that editing didn’t go to waste Shannon 😉

  6. I’m on my third draft so far. The first one was a romantic novella and very innocent and cutesy. The second one was hardcore erotic novel. The third draft is a little less dramatic, I’m just making one of the subplots way less complicated and cutting out another subplot that I thought was completely unnecessary.

  7. I tend to write with little idea of where a story is heading in the first draft and just let the characters go where they want to. It is in the editing stages that I then change parts of it around to make it into a readable piece of work. I suppose that my editing process mainly entails getting rid of superfluous words, making the dialogue tighter, the action quicker and generally just trying to improve the impact of each scene. That being said, I probably keep 80-90% of the ideas that I originally came up with from first draft to finished piece.

  8. I love reading bloggers who shares their cuts, the info you’ve talked about is truly helpful. Sometimes when you chop or cut you feel like your not worthy. In all, it works out. How do you like Amazon. I am wondering who to use, I am still doing research, but there is so many to choose from.

    1. If you like stuff like this, you should check out my “Tips” page – I include much more detailed descriptions of my writing and styles. I wish I could help you with self-publishing decisions, but I’m not experienced in that category. My publisher makes the deals as to who we sell through. We currently are on Amazon, Barnes &Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, Sony, etc. But I would check out Ky Grabowski. She has an entire page dedicated to helping self published authors. Best of luck 😀 http://kygrabowski.wordpress.com/self-publishing/

  9. Thanks for sharing your journey. It’s always interesting to see how things get shaved away and re-shaped from draft to draft until the manuscript is polished enough for publication.

  10. I have been writing my first novel for 15 months now and capitalizing on the generosity of friends and associates to be my “friendly editors.” Each friendly editor brings a different perspective to the table – all of which are extremely helpful. I have a few more chapters to write but will be chopping several thousand words from my manuscript as well. Your suggestions regarding the methods of doing so was beneficial. Thank you! As a first time novelist I know I must slenderize my manuscript down from 120,000 words to somewhere between 80K and mid-90K. I’ve already eliminated some chapters and even some characters, so I’m on the right track – I just haven’t yet completed the marathon.

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