How many drafts is acceptable when editing a novel?
There appears to be some debate in the editing circles about when the ‘eternal editing cycle’ ends. We certainly want to present our best possible work to the public, so we have to edit ourselves. We cannot present work with too many typos and mistakes – unless it’s artistically designed that way.
We can DIY our novels and make it the best we ourselves know how to make it, then ship it out. This route leads to heartache if we go public too soon. People are cruel with their reviews and will stop reading if you don’t have a quality story, then they will tell you about it.
We have to have others look at it. There seem to be a couple ways to do this. Traditional publishing requires you use an editor and certainly, self-publishers can hire one. This is costly. Traditional publishers will pay the editor for you, but that is on the promise that you sell a lot of copies for them. You have to get an agent and query and get a deal first, which can take years. Self-publishers may hire one, knowing that you get what you pay for. Some are very expensive.
Beta readers or critique partners seem to be the way to go. They will look at your content and offer up grammatical and content editing notes. Each person will find different errors. This is useful in polishing your novel to its final draft. You can put their notes side by side and see what errors they all caught and where their opinions differ.
When do you stop polishing your novel and call it done?
Some writers are never satisfied with their scenes. They look at the conflicting advice and they choose which person might be more right and they try it. They rewrite many times, calling each rewrite a draft.
Tip Number one: Don’t compromise your original vision.
You will make more work for yourself if you like someone else’s idea better but it changes too much of your book. If you really don’t like your book that much, do a complete rewrite and write it like it’s your final draft. Put everything in it. Don’t say “I’ll go back and fix that in draft 2” or “That’s what a second draft is for”, just write one draft.
Tip Number two: Rewrite the offending paragraph below it, with notes near you, then cut the original version out.
Don’t nuke your paragraph, rewrite it and mess up your story even more. Keep it where you can refer to it, then when you have created the replacement, delete it. You can also save older versions or older paragraph pieces in a document to refer back to later. If you are using Google Docs, there is an option to restore to a previous draft.
Tip Number three: Use an outline
If you didn’t outline your story to begin with (planners), then go and write one now that it’s finished (pantsers) and note the awesome tidbits you forgot you wrote that might be loopholes or might solve a problem you have later. For instance, I once wrote that a character had a brother. I forgot that morsel. I could use that later to solve a problem (or create one) and it wouldn’t seem like I threw in a deus ex machina.
Tip Number four: Know when to call it done.
At some point, you simply are going over tiny details that don’t even matter. Whether you are querying for traditional publishing or self-publishing, you have to allow your manuscript to be as good as it is going to be. You are human and you have limits. You will second-guess yourself and that’s when you have to stop.
Option number one is: Wait until a real editor comes along and tells you what to do with it.
Option number two: If you’ve sought outside eyes and they’ve left you good comments and you’ve made your changes, then it’s time to end the endless editing cycle of splitting hairs. Get that book baby out into the world!
Remember, you are the master of inspiration, not its slave.
Do something every day that sparks creativity.
I find it interesting that if money were no barrier and people didn’t have to work for money to live, they would pursue creative outlets, hobbies, and even charitable exploits.
“I’d start a band.”
“I’d paint more.”
“I’d help the homeless.”
“I’d go to Africa and help people get water.”
That’s the type of things I’ve heard people say when asked what they would do if money were no object.
Art and creativity takes a back burner in our lives.
We expend our energy on working to survive. Creativity is pushed aside so naturally, we forget how to inspire ourselves. Look at how popular Pinterest boards are, how we live vicariously through others via Instagram, or how we save up for vacations to get away.
Try to find inspiration in the every day. Write small. Write about a tiny detail of your life that may seem boring to you. To someone else, it might be an adventure.
If you are a Pantser, meaning you write new things by the seat of your pants, having an outline won’t always work. You may feel after writing one that once you know where the story is going it has lost its spark. Writing becomes dull and scripted. Writing for each step ends up arduous.
Yet Pantsers can use outlines to aid them. The best thing for a Pantser to outline, or at least write down, is the ending to avoid a flat one. You can’t write action, action, and … he died, the end. You need a direction even when writing by the seat of your pants. Your whims may take you off track, but remember where you are going so you can get back to that ending.
- the princess won’t live happily ever after
- the car will explode
- the battle to end all battles will be survived by the druids
Another way you can use an outline is to keep track of your plot lines as you go, or at least in your first draft edit make a bulleted list of things you wrote that you forgot about. You might be able to add them back in to fix some plot holes.
- Kevin had a brother who died mysteriously
- The fairy may or may not have been her mother
- Explosions happened in the 4th kingdom
Then when you edit the ending, make sure you closed those story arcs – unless you are writing a sequel. If you do write a sequel, make sure those story arcs (unsolved questions) are strong enough to carry it.
Detective Hawk reached a gloved hand to the light switch. In the moment before the room was bathed in light, she braced herself for a scene of unknowable atrocity. It was not difficult to kill a muse, they are quite delicate, but at times the results can be quite macabre.
She squinted. Stark reality was hard on the pupils. A lithe figure, white feathered wings drooping from two graceful shoulders used to bearing the weight of the world curled around a body stooped limply yet stiffly across the top of a writing desk. Ink cascaded down a single white page and puddled on the floor thickly. A pale head, thankfully turned away from the Detective, rested on the ink stained page. Her feather quill had fallen to the floor. Elegant legs were still tucked under the desk.
She could have been asleep.
Unfortunately, the Detective had no choice but to walk over and stare into the vacant, open eyes of crystal blue.
“What happened to you, goddess?” she breathed in awe.
She began to search for clues.
It’s where authors submit their works in progress for review and critique. In order to submit you have to critique other works. This site is monitored for trolls, those that don’t play by the rules. I have not had any instances where I’ve gotten a critique that wasn’t honest.
Critiques are best when they are detailed. If you leave a critique explain why you liked or didn’t like a part. Be nice and use academic speech. Don’t just leave positive, happy face, remarks all over because no one learns anything that way.
Join. There are thousands of members and they are all aspiring and even published authors, so they take things seriously. You get great feedback on your work. You are not alone in writing!
Duh. How could I be so stupid?!
This is why writing contests work and get many entries, but books remain unwritten and unpublished in those same author’s computers.
Authors like me.
This is why I like to collaborate with others. Not only does it bring out the best in me because I challenge myself to be great, but also because they set a pace for me, a deadline, and encourage me to write something they will be proud of and I will, too.
Some people write for themselves. I don’t. I don’t have extra baggage I need to get rid of. I write for others. I want others to feel, dream, laugh, love.
Maybe I have a story inside that needs to get out.
But it won’t be for me. It won’t be to heal me or solve some mystery of myself. It will be for you.
You are my motivation.
You are my passion.
You are my missing piece.