Aviation author writes about Moral Fibre

Helena P. Schrader as written Moral Fibre, a story of just one bomber pilot, his crew, and the woman he loved, which I guarantee, you will also love. Please welcome her to Choices today while she’s on her WOW! Women on Writing book tour. Helena has also written a guest post about writing and how your usual so-called finished product is really just your first draft. I too am certain about that. My historical novel, Papa’s Shoes, went through ten drafts before I called it finished.

Here’s Helena:




The Author and the Seven Drafts

By Helena P. Schrader

Writing a book is a lengthy process with many stages. Quite aside from the preparatory phases involving inspiration and research, the actual writing is also a multi-faceted process — and writing “the end” on a manuscript for the first time is in many ways only the beginning. It is nothing but the first step towards turning a finished manuscript into a book ready for publication.

Let me explain this in a little more detail.

Obviously, it all starts with that “first draft.” That is: the first version of a finished manuscript. Individual parts of that manuscript may have been written and re-written many times, but that is immaterial. The first complete version of a manuscript is nothing but the first draft.

I’m going to admit that for me writing the first draft is always the most exciting. This is the draft that I don’t completely control. My characters take me to unexpected places. Since I can’t ever be sure where I’m going to end up, it is an adventure that can be a little frightening at times but as a result thrilling too. I find that writing a scene for the first time generally gives me an adrenaline rush and I’ve compared writing a first draft to eating Tiramisu (my favorite dessert.)

However, because it takes me many months to complete a manuscript, by the time I reach the end, it may have been months (or even years!) since I looked closely at the beginning. Quite unconsciously, as the characters took command and my research refined my understanding of the historical environment, the characters, plot, environment and themes will have subtly changed. So, the next task is to go through the novel from start to finish creating a second draft that is coherent and internally consistent. While this doesn’t give me the same kind of “sugar-high” that my first draft does, I always enjoy writing the second draft too. I’ve compared this stage to eating fresh-baked bread, which produces that feeling of being very satisfied.

At this stage, I am also usually feeling very smug and pleased with myself. Convinced that I have a wonderful book, I happily send it off to my trusted “developmental editor” so he can provide feedback on the overall structure of the book, pacing, clarity of concept, plausibility, character depth and development, and the like. Naturally, I expect my editor to be impressed with my new work and have little or nothing to complain about. Maybe one day that will happen….

Usually, however, my editor returns my manuscript to me annotated on every page. He highlights plot or character inconsistencies, points out unexplained historical context, underlines clumsy language or jarring transitions, etc.  In short, the novel needs to undergo a complete re-write, i.e. a third draft. (This is rather like eating the veggies I knew I should have eaten but didn’t feel like.)

The third draft, being a response to commentary, takes me down into the weeds and I soon get lost in the details. So, after responding to the editorial comments one at a time, I step back and try to read the book from start to finish again. The point is to erase all memory of the editor’s voice and see if/how the new, revised manuscript works for me as a reader. Inevitably, I start fiddling with things again, producing the fourth draft. (By now, I’ve gotten into veggies and I’m enjoying them!)

When I finish the fourth draft, I usually feel the manuscript is ready for test readers. I like to send the book to at least three and if possible five readers who have enjoyed my books in the past and/or are experts on some aspect of this particular book. Based on the feedback from test readers, I develop the fifth draft.

The fifth draft is the version of the manuscript I forward to my editor for “line editing.” That is, to start polishing the language, line by line and sentence by sentence. Naturally, I think I’ve been polishing the language since the very first draft, but that is quite different from someone else taking your text under their microscope.

The editor returns a manuscript with a welter of recommended “tracked changes.” After going through these one at a time to “accept” or “reject” them, I have my Sixth Draft. (Returning to my eating analogy, by now I’m feeling a little stuffed.)

Then, just when I’m on the brink of sending the manuscript off to the electronic formatter for the creation of print-ready and ebook files, I start to panic. Suddenly, I am full of doubts. I realize the book is not at all ready for “prime time.” There are too many things that haven‘t been fully thought through! Things that could and should be different. I undertake another re-write the book  — and I’m always horrified by the number of changes I make. The re-write produces the Seventh Draft. This is the draft that goes to the publisher.  Everything after that is just proof-reading — again, and again, and again.


Book Summary

Riding the icy, moonlit sky—

They took the war to Hitler.

Their chances of survival were less than fifty percent.

Their average age was 21.

This is the story of just one bomber pilot, his crew, and the woman he loved.

It is intended as a tribute to them all.

Flying Officer Kit Moran has earned his pilot’s wings, but the greatest challenges still lie ahead: crewing up and returning to operations. Things aren’t made easier by the fact that while still a flight engineer, he was posted LMF (Lacking in Moral Fibre) for refusing to fly after a raid on Berlin that killed his best friend and skipper. Nor does it help that he is in love with his dead friend’s fiancé, but she is not yet ready to become romantically involved again.

Publisher: Cross Sea Press

ISBN-10: 1735313993

ISBN-13: 978-1735313993

Print Length: 436 pages

Purchase a copy of Moral Fibre on Amazon, Bookshop.org, and Barnes and Noble. You can also add this to your GoodReads reading list.


About the Author

Helena P. Schrader is an established aviation author and expert on the Second World War. She earned a PhD in History (cum Laude) from the University of Hamburg with a ground-breaking dissertation on a leading member of the German Resistance to Hitler. Her non-fiction publications include Sisters in Arms: The Women who Flew in WWII, The Blockade Breakers: The Berlin Airlift, and Codename Valkyrie: General Friederich Olbricht and the Plot against Hitler. In addition, Helena has published eighteen historical novels and won numerous literary awards. Her novel on the Battle of Britain, Where Eagles Never Flew won the Hemingway Award for 20th Century Wartime Fiction and a Maincrest Media Award for Historical Fiction. RAF Battle of Britain ace Wing Commander Bob Doe called it “the best book” he had ever seen about the battle. Traitors for the Sake of Humanity is a finalist for the Foreword INDIES awards. Grounded Eagles and Moral Fibre have both garnered excellent reviews from acclaimed review sites such as Kirkus, Blue Ink, Foreword Clarion, Feathered Quill, and Chantileer Books.

You can follow her author website for updates and her aviation history blog.


  1. Madeline Sharples says

    Thank you, Helena, for your views on writing a book and the draft process.

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