Thank You, I’ll Have Another02:51
I was recently at a wedding of an old college friend. I’ve been away for a while traveling, so it was fun to come back and see him and so many of my other friends all at once. Who doesn’t love a wedding? Free food and drink, dancing, speeches, tears of joy, perhaps a little familial calamity. The only hitch came when I had to explain to people what I’ve been doing for the past few months.
The conversations went something like this:
“What you been up to, man?”
“Almost done with the book.”
“Is this a new one?”
“Nope, same one I’ve been at for a bit—the one about the guy who goes back to his hometown?”
“So you’re close?”
“Yup, just finished another draft but still need to do some more tweaking.”
“Well, I’d love to read it when you finally finish…”
The draft of which I speak is my fifth. And yes, I am almost done. The first draft was to figure out what the story was about, the second draft was a disaster that lost me an agent. The third and fourth drafts I barely remember and the fifth I finally I struck gold, I think. Which is to say, I finally created and followed a detailed outline and then a whole bunch of surprising twists and turns emerged on their own during the writing.
So I’m a proofread away from being done, right?
The truth is I’m not sure. When are we done? How do we know? Here’s what I think: You’re done when you’ve written your story to the best of your abilities. For me, that means multiple drafts, constant re-writes, and endless picking amidst of a ceaseless shower of self-doubt. This is my first novel (second manuscript), so maybe it’ll be easier next time but—as someone “almost” done—I find it nearly impossible to let go until my work is as bullet-proof as possible. And that means my plot must be devoid of loose ends, my character arcs resolved and all my details and threads linked up from chapter to chapter. And the sentence-to-sentence writing has to be solid.
This has taken me an inordinately long time. Like I said, it’s my first and if it doesn’t get published I want to make sure that it’s not for lack of effort or attention to detail.
Now, like all things writing, what works for me or you might not work for someone else. I know successful novelists who do no more than two drafts before turning in a manuscript. I’ve met writers who do five drafts just to figure out what it is they’re writing. Some people outline and research and formulate like mad before even thinking of beginning a draft. Others have only the faintest notion of what their book will be about and start writing just to see where it takes them.
And that, WEbookers, leaves us with the question of the week: How do you know when your manuscript is done?