The revision process for ELANTRIS was quite extensive. The thing is, I wrote most of the book in 1999 and 2000. I spent the next three years shopping it around. By that time, I’d already had a lot of my friends read it and give comments, and had done about six drafts.
Then, Tor bought the book, and my editor and agent both had a lot of good suggestions for making it a better novel. This resulted in four more drafts (one of which being the copy edit.) So, the book you can now buy is the tenth version of the novel.
Many of these drafts don’t change a whole lot. I call a ‘draft’ any time I read through the novel all the way, changing things as I go. So, false starts and thrown away chapters all count in the rough (or first) draft. The second draft is usually me reading through and fixing the big consistency errors. The third draft is me trying to cut the book down (since my novels all get a little long-winded.) I usually lose between 10 and 15 percent in this draft.
After that, the drafts are done to fix problems I see or that other people point out.
So that you can see what I’m talking about, I’ve included two interesting screenshots below. Microsoft Word has a function where you can compare two versions of a document. The program will look for changes that have been made, and highlight added things in red, then cross out (in red) things that have been removed.
I did this with the first and ninth drafts of ELANTRIS. (The tenth draft—the copy edit—was a paper only draft, at least on my end.) The following screen shots should give you some idea of how different the book is now. (The blue is the background I use in MS Word. The white is text that is the same in both versions. The red is anything that has changed.)