It may seem like we’ve gone off the tidy novel-writing rails these past few months.
We talked about first drafts, only to jump to hooks – something we could have covered way back in the beginning, when we were dealing with how to start a novel – and plot holes.
Then we were back to second drafts, which we appeared to shunt to the side to tackle exposition, bias, style, tone, and showing not telling.
In other words, we’ve been all over the novel-writing board.
But, believe it or not, there was a method to all that madness. There was no way I was going to overwhelm unfamiliar readers early on in the process with all that information.
As I’ve said before, the purpose of writing a first draft is to write a first draft. It’s not to stress out about all those editorial pointers. It’s not until the second draft and third draft, fourth draft and fifth draft… and perhaps beyond… that you work all that in.
And once you have? Then you have something truly awesome on your hands.
Then you have a final draft.
How do you know the draft you’re staring at is, in fact, a final draft? Or, more importantly, whether it should be a final draft?
Naturally, to understand that, you first have to understand what one is.
Best-case scenario, a novel or nonfiction manuscript’s final draft is basically an unpublished book: the version you’re not going to make any more edits to before you do publish it. (Okay, maybe a little tweak here or two. But we’re talking about a few word changes only!) Either that or you set it aside forever.
If you are planning to publish it though, it should be as clean as possible when it comes to spelling and grammar, plot/theme, logical construction, compelling language, and well thought-out elements.
It isn’t going to be perfect, for reasons we’ll discuss later on in the week. So get that thought out of your head right now.
But it should be polished. Engaging. And as error-free as possible.
But what if you're missing something? What if your brain has gone completely and totally blank from staring at the same story so many times?
What if you’re too far inside your head, and you can’t see what you need to see?
Chances are high that you have, you are, and you can’t. That’s why it’s not a bad idea to make a checklist that looks something like this:
Have I had anyone else – friends, family members, teachers, mentors, beta readers – read the manuscript, taking their suggestions into consideration during the draft-editing process?
Have I had an editor look it over, taking her suggestions into consideration during the draft-editing process?
Is the literary hook enough to make people want to keep flipping pages? Or did I give away too many details that bog it up?
Did I run spellcheck and grammar check to catch any silly little errors I might have otherwise missed?
Once you’ve answered those questions appropriately… on top of all the other aspects we covered before (and yup, I know I included "literary hook" both here and in its own separate series two months ago – but it’s that important! You need to analyze that one up and down)…
Then you’ve got yourself a final draft.
And once you’ve got that, you’re ready to start really planning to publish.
Just not a moment before.