You’re on Draft No. What?!? Get That Manuscript Published!


Today’s writing-related Challenge of the Week, as posted on Innovative Editing’s Facebook page, concerns the issue of publishaphobia. That's my made up term for over-editing your manuscript due to a fear of being published.

The editorial process is an extremely, exceptionally, extraordinarily important part of the publishing process. I can’t stress enough how important it is to go through a series of drafts before you look at your work and go, “Yup. It’s done, and I’m ready.”

Your first draft is never going to be good enough. Never, ever, ever.

Neither is your second.

Neither is your third.

As for your fourth? Well, I’d really keep editing. And the same goes for your fifth.

It’s not really until the sixth draft that a manuscript starts to shape up – and that’s if you’ve gotten at least one round of outside opinions from a professional editor or at least someone who has the skills of a professional editor.

Not a beta reader, just for the record. Beta readers can serve a great purpose when you’re back on an earlier draft, pointing out the kind of glaring issues we writers are seriously too blind to see on our own. But these wonderful resources are still readers first, foremost, and only. Which means they’re ultimately more interested in what happens next than what’s happening right then.

You need a reader who’s also an editor – someone who simultaneously focuses on what’s already happened in your story, what’s happening on the page she’s on and what’s going to happen on the next.

As I keep stressing in all of these editorial-related posts, this isn’t about paying tons of money to make your story look good. I know I wouldn’t ever publish a novel without having a truly trusted and critical second set of eyes on it. But if that extra opinion can come at no cost, then more power to the writer!

Go ahead and use the professional resources around you for all they’re worth (making sure they know exactly how appreciated they are). Then, after your manuscript is good and ready, you have to let it go.

Somehow, someway, you need to accept your final draft. Embrace your final draft. Love your final draft.

And then publish the thing already.

There are far too many writers out there who never get to that published point because they’re so worried about making their manuscripts perfect. Or they’re worried about how they’re going to be received by readers. Or maybe they’re worried about trying and failing.

I understand all those concerns, but here are three responses for any little writing birdies who keep flapping around the nest instead of jumping out and trying their authorial wings.

  1. Your manuscript is never going to be perfect. There’s always going to be some error or perceived error that you missed. That’s okay though, because nobody else’s manuscript, published or unpublished, is ever completely flawless either.

  2. You’re going to find readers who love you, readers who like you, readers who don’t like you, and readers who can’t be bothered to look at you at all. That’s true of every single writer on the planet, including the wildly successful ones. (More about this tomorrow.)

  3. Yup, you might fail. Let’s be honest here. Life is fraught with such risks. However, you also might succeed in accomplishing more than you could ever imagine. So why not give it a try when the only thing at risk here is your ego?

“All amazing points, Jeannette,” you might be telling me. “But how do I know when I’m really ready?”

Good question. Tricky answer.

I’m not sure how many drafts I went through for my very first novel attempt, but it wasn’t enough. I don’t think any amount of editing would be enough unless I started from scratch and just rewrote the whole thing, then went through my standard six or seven rounds of editing.

But the very first book I ever actually published? That probably took me a solid 10 editorial rounds over seven years – all of which were necessary. With that said, 10 rounds might be too much for you. Or it might be too few.

It’s hard to say without knowing your exact personal writing journey for the exact personal manuscript you’re working on. However, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that if you’re on draft 12 or higher, you probably need to analyze your choices, which are as follows.

  1. Get a professional editor to look it over and either confirm or alleviate your concerns.

  2. Throw it out or pull a Raven on it (i.e., say “nevermore).

  3. Just publish the thing already.

For all you know, your manuscript might be begging you to make an official editorial decision – and stick with it.

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