May 8, 2012
How I Write A Novel: Final Revisions/Final Draft
So at about this point in the process, I am sick to death of my WIP. I start wondering if anyone at all will think that it's original or creative because I sure as heck don't since I've read each chapter ten or more times. I've gotten feedback from crit partners, revised for all manner of major things and compiled the unwieldy set of chapters into one cohesive draft. In short I am TIRED, people. But there is still a bit of work to be done. Fortunately, none of it is major.
This is where I go over the draft for spelling, formatting, grammar, word usage. By now I've caught a lot of errors and so have my stupendous and awesome critique partners, but that doesn't mean that there aren't a lot more there. So, first I fix all formatting issues and use the brilliant blog post: 8 Fiddly Things You Can Do To Your Manuscript To Make Your Editor's Day by Alison Janssen as a guideline. It's here. Then I print out the entire manuscript. Usually I do this at Office Max and have them bind it--cheaply( I try to have a coupon saved for this). This way I can take it with me without worrying that it'll get all out of order AND it sort of feels more like an actual book. I get ridiculously happy when I get to this point and will usually begin editing at Panera over an absurdly large BBQ Chicken Salad with a rather smug smile on my face. I have Strunk and White and my computer at the ready and go over the entire draft a chapter at a time, reading each line as closely as I can. This is where I fret over the flow of the sentences and the placement of words, often times moving a single word to different spots in a sentence until it reads to my satisfaction. I will read whole chapters out loud and see where I stumble, I will re-read them inside my head and see if I am still stumbling. I will search for the words that I use way too many times and pay attention to when they are necessary and when they aren't. I will rethink paragraph lengths, sentence lengths within paragraphs, and all manner of adjectives and adverbs.
I know I'm done when I take words from one spot and put them in another only to go back the next day and put them back where they originally were. I'm also done when I can no longer tell if what I am doing is actually helping. This is the point where if I'm smart, I PUT THE PEN DOWN. I will also know it's done if at this stage I send it back to crit partners and get reactions like: Wow, it was good before, but now everything really flows. Or: I love the changes you made. Nine times out of ten they'll still have suggestions, but they won't agree with each other and they will all be relatively small and more opinion type comments. Then I know I'm ready to send my baby out into the world.
So you're probably wondering if this is the point where my worries are over, right? NOT AT ALL. I've just traded old worries for new ones, like: Will my agent/editor like it? Will they like it as much as the one that they signed me over? Will it be marketable at this point in time? Will it be creative and original enough to stand out and get noticed without being so out there that no one cares or understands what I was trying to do? Will this manuscript help strengthen my fledgling career or kill it before it really gets going?
Before I got an agent or editor these questions looked more like: Will this stand out in the query pile? Did I manage to write something strong enough this time? Will this be hot enough to get positive responses right away or at all? Will I ever get all the story balls in the air at the same time and get published? Will this be THE ONE?
In truth there is no sigh of relief, no victory dance. There is just a quiet sense of completion, a slight and fleeting (but wonderful) feeling of self pride. And then it's time to pick up the pen...and start something new.