drafting · Editing · Writing

Final Drafts

Happy Sunday! My apologies for the later-than-usual post, but I just spent several god-awful hours ordering my Halloween costume stuff. I’m not really feelin’ it this year, but I’ve won prizes for my costumes both years I’ve worked in this office, and now I’ve got a reputation to maintain. Pride, she cometh before the fall.

Today I want to talk about Final Drafts. This will be a short post, because there isn’t a whole lot to say about them…you’re almost done, after all! Good job! I’m so proud of you!

At a certain point, after editing and tweaking and refining draft after draft, you are going to feel more or less satisfied with your book (I say “more or less” because, in my experience, creators of any kind are never 100% happy with their work). The plot makes sense, you have solid characters with realistic motivations and interactions, you’ve moved on from big-picture editing and have made your sentences actually sound good…This is the beginning of the end of your project, and there are only a few things left for you to do:

1-Send it out to another batch of beta readers. I usually use the same core ones I did for the earlier draft(s), with a few others added in. These new readers are not typically writers themselves, but are avid fans of the genre I’m writing. Since the draft is going to be more “book” than “mess” this time around, I want to get opinions that might mirror those of someone stumbling upon the book at a bookstore and reading it at random. Writers and readers can be very different in their feedback, so it’s important to use both.

2-After getting this (usually last) bit of criticism, take extra care in how you decide to utilize it. If you’re like me, you will need to resist the urge to change major things in this end-game phase. I respond a little TOO well to criticism, and have to remind myself not to slash and hack my book-baby into pieces every time someone makes a suggestion. Unless a comment really hits home for you and requires major revisions, you will probably just be tweaking a few sentences here and there, tightening up your prose and cutting anything that isn’t necessary.

3-Put the book away for a week, and then read the entire thing through. Look for typos, spelling errors, punctuation problems. Look also for sentences that really aren’t needed, or parts where maybe the writing could be stronger/tighter. I also look for repetition in my word-usage. Get out your thesaurus and choose some better options if you rely on one word too heavily, BUT don’t get crazy and start using words even well-read people might have trouble with. You don’t want your readers having to dive for the dictionary every other page. I’ve read books like that (I’m looking at you, “Galatea 2.2”), and while I definitely got a mental-workout and I’m sure it was for the best, I ended up not engaging with the characters or plot because I was too busy looking up definitions.

4-After doing a little bit of tightening, put the book away for another week, and then do a last read-through. I know, this seems weird and crazy, but I’ve found that it’s really important to make your eyes as “fresh” as you can for your final draft, and the only way you can do that is to give yourself a little distance. When you do your final read-through, if there is ANYTHING nagging at you, change/fix it NOW. You don’t want to be having second thoughts after your book is already out with agents. If you make any sort of changes other than correcting a typo here and there, read the whole chapter through a few times to make sure you are happy with it.

The biggest question facing a writer in the final draft is: how will I know when it’s done? Honestly…no book I have ever written feels truly “done.” There are always things I’m sure I could do better, or extra scenes I feel I could have added. But there WILL come a time when you feel that you have written the book to the best of your ability. I can’t describe it other than, “You’ll know.” And when that time comes, please, treat yourself to a pint of ice cream and a good cry. It’s a strange feeling. Hollow and depressing but satisfying, too.

When you’re done eating your feelings, pull yourself the fuck together because now the REAL challenge is here: GETTING THIS DAMNED THING PUBLISHED.

We’re now going to move out of the “craft” part and into the business side of things, with posts about querying, workshops, agents, rejection, etc. Stay tuned!



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