The final draft of my first (as yet to be published) novel is done. Or is it? If you are a future debut novelist, you know how vague the term “final draft” can be when it applies to your own work. Or at least, to mine.
Learning the Craft of the Draft
I hope not to embarrass myself by saying I’ve been writing this mermaid novel for at least four years. [Being Mermaid: From Out of the Sea] The journey has included taking workshops, seminars, a webinar or two, having conversations with writers and reading or scanning lots and lots of books, blogs and magazines.
In spite of all the information, my early writing felt like a crazy, all-over-the-place groping for meaning and the only way I could go in order to A) learn the fiction writing process and B) get the novel done.
Was it the right thing to do?
Between Draft and Manuscript
Sara Megibow, an agent with KT Literary, spoke at a conference session entitled “Biggest Mistakes” that writers make when pitching or querying a work. In my paraphrasing, one of her reasons for not being interested is the work’s incompleteness. She said, “You’re at draft only. Your manuscript isn’t ready.”
The year was 2013 and I was preparing to pitch my completed manuscript, or was I?
The Early Draft
“A Four-Step Plan for Revision” by Raymond Obstfeld In The Complete Handbook of Novel Writing (Writer’s Digest Books. 2002) elaborates on draft distinctions:
“Early drafts lay down the basic story and characters while the final drafts fine-tune what’s already there.”
As I was writing this post, an article on my favorite blogger’s site, Jane Friedman, popped up. “How to Finish Your Book in Three Drafts” is great material and great timing by Stuart Horwitz who calls “the first draft the ‘messy draft,’ which is all about getting it [the story] down .”
I was definitely messy as I wrote, rewrote, ditched, scratched out a section of, scratched out a lot of sections of, returned old material to and started all over again.
The Final Draft
When the beta readers had done their work, I revised again and again.
At last, my final draft was done, the one Stuart Horwitz calls the “polished draft,” which [had been] all about making the story “good.”
I was ready to query and pitch my manuscript.
When the Story Goes Nowhere
My mermaid novel received mild interest.
One queried agent asked for the whole book after reading the first fifty pages before it was rejected. Another agent was excited about my pitch but later turned down the novel. An editor said it wouldn’t get past “acquisitions.”
I knew I was getting close but also felt something may still be lacking. Perhaps, as Sara Megibow had told a large audience of writers that year, the error may be in my thinking the novel was a manuscript when it remained a draft.
Final Draft as Plural
I was back at the books, blogs, workshops, etc., to seek an end to my story. To stamp FINAL on the final draft.
Raymond Obstfeld said, “Although the phrase ‘final draft’ suggests the last time you’ll revise, that really isn’t the case. Final draft really refers to the final process of revising.”
Seek Professional Help
A professional editor is currently reviewing my mermaid novel as the journey continues.
Afterward, I will be back at it again. This time will be the final, final draft.
Thank goodness, I really believe in my mermaid novel and will do all I can to learn how to tell her story most effectively.
“Edit your manuscript until your fingers bleed and you have memorized every last word. Then, when you are certain you are on the verge of insanity, edit one more time!” ~C.K. Webb