The nebulous 90th percentile

As a writer, most of career has been made up of discrete projects with fixed deadlines. Even when managing a lot of projects at once, I have to set deadlines and allot a set amount of time to each one ... or else i. will. go. mad!

But as another deadline flies by, I noticed something about project-work (at least writing project-work). When I have written a "pretty much done" piece, and I'd be just about happy showing it around internally, I've usually invested about half the hours I ultimately do. In other words, when I'm 90 per cent finished, I've done 50 per cent of the work.

There are a lot of good explanations for this. Writing, like programming, has bugs. If you call concepts by different names through your document, you have to streamline that before submitting the work. Streamlining can ruin your flow, because maybe a sentence required that three-syllable word, or a certain rhyme or rhythm to sound great, and now that sentence has to be re-written. Sometimes paragraphs repeat themselves, or worse, almost repeat themselves. Again, these must be re-written. And when they are re-written, you've likely fudged your segues.

Every first draft has at least two motifs, one of which must be killed. Which one? How will it flow when the dropped ones are replaced?

I can't say I've ever thought all this through before, but I know shit writing from good writing, and trying to never submit the former, I think I follow a process much like this; a process that means a 90 per cent finished work is half way there.