The FINAL draft — re-named "2019 Final Draft" or "Final Draft 2" or "The Other Final Draft" or "Final Final Final Draft" or whatever you choose to call it when you save the thing again after making yet more changes — can keep coming back around like that bean soup you had for dinner.
Honestly. A final draft can practically clear the room. Toot. Toot.
I'm notorious for never quite calling a project officially "done." Even when I've worked for a newspaper, and had to stop self-editing and hand over my completed articles to make weekly print deadlines, I would read the published version three days later and make minor changes in my head.
Some would say I'm a little obsessed. I would say I'm thorough.
Yeah. Hate to break it to you, but that final draft might still not be the final draft. And, like the soup, it might give you a hearty case of gas.
Is the inability to commit, to formally remove all those final versions and leave just one, shining FINAL draft in your desktop folder, a good thing or a bad thing?
For me, final is never quite final, and that is a good thing. Although I do a ton of editing to my work, I am always open to the input of others. As much as I may think my writing is polished, many eyes are better than just my two. Let's be honest, if any of you reading this blog are on your game, I'm sure you'll find a mistake in here somewhere (even though I edited this a gazillion times before posting).
I also take full advantage of being a member of a critique group and always try to have more than one beta reader give me substantive input at the final draft stage. Are my characters believable? Are there plot holes? How is the pace? Done right, this process takes time, something many writers don't want to allow themselves. Be patient. Take that time. It's soooo worth it in the end.
My goal is to present the cleanest finished product possible, so checking and checking and re-checking my grammar and punctuation is a must. When I step away from a "final" draft, and come back to it months later, I am always surprised (and a little annoyed) when I notice something I'd like to change for the betterment of the writing ... again. Still, I make those changes.
Ultimately, I strive to perfect each sentence and each paragraph and each chapter. I also strive to present "error-free" work. That is what is expected during the submission process.
For me, final is never quite final, and that is a bad thing. Not truly considering one's work to be "finished" can be a serious problem if the goal is to see a 300-page manuscript make it to print. One of my biggest goals for 2019 is to get past my need to keep editing. At some point, a manuscript must be ready (enough) to put it out there. It simply cannot sell itself while sitting in a folder on my desktop.
There is also the fear that editing and editing and editing might remove some of what gives the words, strung together in just my voice, the personality I wish to convey in the first place. A manuscript could become a sterile, lifeless thing if stripped down too much.
Furthermore, never putting a manuscript to bed—never saying "I'm done"—makes it next to impossible to move on and fully commit to a new project.
So, about my current "final draft" --
My young adult mystery, "Something Strange at Water's Edge," has been a journey. I won't say just how long I tinkered with the manuscript (way too @!% long), but it was my first novel ... my first foray into fiction. I cut my teeth on those first 67,000 words and learned just about everything I could from the dozen or so "final drafts" I saved over the years. That's not to mention how much time I put in on the early drafts.
While returning, again and again, to that final draft, I did manage to move on.
I have two completed picture books ready for submission. My WIPs include two other picture books, and I'm about 150 pages into a YA dystopian novel, 100 pages into a literary fiction project set in a summer camp in the 1980s, 200 pages into a women's novel centered around father/daughter relationships and Alzheimer's Disease, and 50 pages into a follow up YA mystery using my "Something Strange at Water's Edge" characters.
That's a lot of WIPs. I'm hoping to finish first drafts on two by spring. Final drafts? Eventually. I AM much faster now at the entire process. Loads of practice.
Hopefully less gas.
In 2019, I WILL submit. Sample chapters of my YA are currently with an awesome lit agent from an agency I covet and an interested publisher, both of whom requested during the Dec. #PitMad, a Twitter pitch event. Of course, before I sent those first few sample chapters, I had to re-read the entire manuscript (again) and made just a few minor changes (again).
Yeah. I did.
That final draft you've got sitting on your desktop? You're probably not done yet. Sometimes it's nearly impossible to find "the end."
You might need a Final Final Final Draft. The manuscript will be better for it.
Would you like some bean soup with that? Toot. Toot.
Artwork by Michelle Storm Haas.
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