Just Because it’s the Third Draft,

9 Aug

it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s almost finished.

Unfortunately and fortunately.

Lately, I’ve been getting a lot of questions from friends and family.  When I say “a lot,” I really only mean “two, over and over again.”  The conversation goes a little like this:

“How far are you in your book?”

“Sixty-ish percent through the third draft, yay!”

“So—does that mean you’ll be done soon?”

(Pause for crickets to chirp while I think of how to explain that while I’m *much* closer to being done, I’m not sure exactly when ‘done’ will happen.)

“Hopefully the rest of this draft won’t take too much longer, but it will probably still need a bit of work after that.”


As you might imagine, this has an interesting effect on me.  I’ve been working on this thing for a while, right?  And everyone knows it.  And I’m almost done with my third draft.  Third!  Not the first one, where I had no clue.  Not the second one, where I performed major MAJOR surgery on the manuscript.  The third draft, where things are finally, finally, finally starting to resemble something presentable!  That means I’m almost done, right?


Not quite.  Not for sure, anyway.  After this draft, I plan to read it again and polish up a few things I may have missed before it goes into the hands of a few betas.  And then, depending on the feedback from my oh-so-helpful future betas (who will, I hope, be tactful and kind while being brutally honest), it may take a little work, or it may take a lot of work.  In which case I will complete said work and make it the best little manuscript I can write, send some intensely sincere thank you cards to my kind/brutal future betas, and mold it until it feels ready to send to agents.

I’m aware that it probably won’t ever be perfect.  That doesn’t mean I want to stop at merely good enough, though.

I was inspired to think these thoughts and write this post due to something I read over the weekend.  Stephanie Perkins, author of Anna and the French Kiss (December 2010), has an amazing post on her blog about just how many revisions Anna has been through.  It’s a lot, people.  Her attitude about it is pretty inspiring, and I encourage you to read the post¹.

It occurred to me: so many non-writer people ask when I’ll be done because they have no clue how much work goes into a novel.  I thought I had a clue.  This post, though, opened my eyes to exactly how much work a novel can demand.  Reading the perspective of someone who has lived it?  Was pretty much revelatory for me.  Just because it’s the third draft, doesn’t mean it’s anywhere close to the final product.

This can overwhelm me, or it can inspire me.

I’m choosing to be inspired, because I’d rather not feel overwhelmed.  Did I mention that everyone’s “When are you going to be done?”s have tempted me to rush the thing?  To churn it out because I’m thisclose to the end?  No, I don’t think I mentioned it.  But now I have, mainly to say I’m learning patience.  And follow-through.  To not rush, but to work steadily and with discipline, making sure everything is as good as it can possibly be.  Leaving it at good enough would be cheating myself and my manuscript.

Which is where my “unfortunately and fortunately” comment comes in.  Unfortunately, I may still have a long road on this novel.  Fortunately, I love my characters and the story.  Fortunately, I know that feedback from betas, and whatever subsequent revisions come out of that feedback, will only serve to improve the story.  That, after however many hours I put into it and however many lattes I drink in the process, the work will pay off.  It will be the best little manuscript it could possibly be, and how could I ever want it to be anything but that?

Unfortunately, it may take longer than expected.

Fortunately, it will be worth it.

¹The first half of the post is about the book itself, the last section (after the question in red text) is all about the many stages of revision that went into her novel.

23 Responses to “Just Because it’s the Third Draft,”

  1. Melissa Monday / 9 August 10 at 9:53 am #

    OMG! I read her post and almost wilted. That’s so much daunting work, but it IS wonderfully reassuring to look back and see how that intensity turns into an amazing finished product!

    It gives a sense of hope and encouragement. Alllllll that work can and will pay off. Considering I’m in the early, early, EARLY stages of the new novel/baby that I plan to share with the world, I am crazy intimidated, but excited all the same.


    • Kayla Olson Tuesday / 10 August 10 at 9:26 pm #

      I know, I pretty much wilted when I read it the first time, too. Then, I read it again, and decided to be encouraged. You’re so right (“it IS wonderfully reassuring to look back and see how that intensity turns into an amazing finished product”, and, well, the rest of your comment…), and I agree with everything you said, 100%.


      And I am hurrying, as much as someone who’s determined not to rush can hurry!!

      PS: That picture of Little V is staring at me, taunting me, and I am SO ready to read her story. Ahem. 😉

  2. jenniferneri Monday / 9 August 10 at 1:11 pm #

    when I started novel # 2, my father said,
    “Why? don’t you think you should publish novel # 1 first.”

    oh daddy dear….(truthfully I love him!!)

    I feel your pain.

    • Kayla Olson Tuesday / 10 August 10 at 9:29 pm #

      That is too cute! Hard to explain, especially to someone who means so well, but cute. I’m going to see a lot of family this weekend, and am sort of dreading answering these questions over and over again, to people who genuinely mean so well.

  3. Linda Cassidy Lewis Monday / 9 August 10 at 4:14 pm #

    Sigh. I already have two years invested in Brevity and I haven’t even reached the agent requested revisions stage yet. But if it’s published, it will all be worth it.

    • Kayla Olson Tuesday / 10 August 10 at 9:38 pm #

      So, so true! And seriously, I’d say those two years are already worth it. Brevity is so purposeful, beautiful. That said, of course it would feel awesome for it to be published. That way, even more people can see how purposeful and beautiful it is. 🙂

  4. Merrilee Monday / 9 August 10 at 4:22 pm #

    Nice to hear about the realities from a published author. I do think too many new writers go in thinking one or two drafts is enough.

    Stick with it, Kayla. You can do it!

    • Kayla Olson Tuesday / 10 August 10 at 9:39 pm #

      Thanks, Merrilee! I appreciate your encouragement! I agree, it does seem like many new writers think one or two drafts are enough. Thank goodness revision is fun and satisfying! Though it’s tedious, it sure is fun to see it morph into something more polished and tight.

  5. Carol Ann Hoel Monday / 9 August 10 at 8:38 pm #

    I haven’t published my first novel, but it is finished, finished after countless drafts, each one of which I thought would be the last. Each trip through the pages I made with specific purpose, examining the quality of the dialog, ensuring the narrator portions were separate, confirming the integrity of the characters, checking for structural soundness, verifying the sequence of events, reconsidering its appeal and appropriateness for the intended readership. Each of these was a complete and distinct revision. Surely I was finished, right? No, next journey with essential issues all resolved, I focused entirely on improving the writing. Wow! what a difference it made to change around some sentences, use some better words! Until the real last draft, there were more important issues than refining my writing. It was worth doing. I made it better with each trip through the pages. Careful revision may make the difference between writing an average novel and a great one. I am not claiming to have written a great novel, but this I know, each revision made my novel better. It’s an adventure,Kayla, and from reading your post, I know you are having fun. Be patient and don’t stop too soon.

    • Carol Ann Hoel Monday / 9 August 10 at 9:03 pm #

      And all this from the novice that doesn’t give advice. Forgive me. Ha!

    • Kayla Olson Tuesday / 10 August 10 at 9:45 pm #

      Carol Ann, thanks so much for this insightful comment! I’m encouraged by the amount of work you’ve put in to your novel, and that you came out on the other side feeling like it was worth it. (Congratulations, by the way, on finishing your novel!)

      It has been the most amazing adventure, so far! You’re right, I am having fun. Like I told Merrilee, it’s pretty satisfying to watch the manuscript morph into successively tighter, more polished versions of itself. Thanks for the encouragement. Perhaps you should revise your “novice who doesn’t give advice” policy, because I quite enjoyed reading what you had to say. 🙂

  6. Cam Monday / 9 August 10 at 8:43 pm #

    I’m at what I thought was the end of draft two, but it turns out that draft one lacked was mysteriously missing an ending…so I’m really in the middle of draft two. It also means I am uber jealous of you being on draft three! Congrats for getting there!

    • Kayla Olson Tuesday / 10 August 10 at 9:51 pm #

      Cam, hi and welcome!

      Ha! Oh, man, I’m just trying to imagine what it was like for you to get to the end and think, Um…wait. Where’s the rest of this? That must have been both traumatic and exciting. Traumatic, because, well, you weren’t done after all. Exciting, because after nearly two full drafts, you probably knew your world and characters and plot well enough to construct a solid ending. I’m excited for you!

      Thanks for the congratulations, and no need to be jealous. (Easier said than done, though, I know from experience.) I’m learning to enjoy where I am in the process, because there’s always someone farther along whose life is enviable. 🙂 Good luck with finishing your draft — can’t wait to hear how it goes!

  7. Mercedes Tuesday / 10 August 10 at 12:15 am #

    Who doesn’t love the “Are you done/published yet?” question? I’ve perfected the bright “Oh, you’re such a card” smile. It’s so much better than the screaming and clawed hands that I brandished at them earlier. 😉

    • Kayla Olson Tuesday / 10 August 10 at 9:56 pm #

      Hey, Mercedes, good to see you again!

      I think I need to work on that smile. Mine’s more like an, “Okay, self. Smile, already! They genuinely care, and the poor sweet things just don’t know better, so SMILE dangit, and answer kindly and clearly and with patience!” smile.

      Which, in defense of said smile, is preferable to claws and screaming.

      But still. Yours sounds nice.

  8. Kerryn Tuesday / 10 August 10 at 5:58 am #

    I have developed a deep fear of falling into an endless revision after two years revising my last novel only to discover that it wasn’t worth it and I had gotten all the worth I would out of it within the first year of revision.

    I am, however, treading carefully into the writing and eventually revision of stories and now that I have braced myself I will go and read Stephanie’s post.

    Good luck and much writerly love for you and your manuscript!

    • Kayla Olson Tuesday / 10 August 10 at 9:59 pm #

      Hey, Kerryn, and thanks for the kind words of encouragement!

      I’m sorry to hear about the fear you’ve developed, though it’s understandable, for sure. On the upside, you must have learned SO MUCH from those two years, both in regards to writing itself and the way you go about doing it. Surely, this time around will be a totally new experience.

      Good for you, for trying again. And, for ‘treading carefully.’ I hope you were encouraged by Stephanie’s post, after the initial sort-of-shock of reading it (like I felt).

      Take care, and I’m glad you’re around the Twitterverse/Blogosphere again. 🙂

      • Kerryn Thursday / 12 August 10 at 4:12 pm #

        I did learn a lot and I’m not going to let it stop me. I just need the time to recover! Stephanie’s post wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be to read, possibly because I’ve been through part of it myself. I now know just how much you need to love a novel!

        Thanks. It’s nice to be back around the communities. 🙂

  9. Agatha82 Tuesday / 10 August 10 at 6:01 am #

    Kayla, so glad you left me a comment with a link to this. Yeah, don’t I know how you feel. Thanks for such an inspiring post because it really helps to see that we’re all on the same boat. Yeah, revisions, revisions, revisions…bleh 🙂

    • Kayla Olson Tuesday / 10 August 10 at 10:02 pm #

      Agatha, hello! Oh, good, I’m glad you didn’t mind the link. I try not to do that in blog comments, but decided it was worth it in this case. Like I said, I identify with you, and I’m glad you felt the post was inspiring. You’re not alone, my new friend! 🙂

  10. tahliaN Tuesday / 10 August 10 at 7:48 pm #

    Three drafts! Only three. Wow! My first novel was 7 with about 20 edits, but I was new to the writing game then. I can see that my new novel will take a lot less.

    I discovered that it all took a lot longer than I thought, but I figured that if I didn’t finish make it good enough to be published, then everything I’d done already was a waste of time. Couldn’t bear that. That was inpsirarion enough for me to keep at it.

    • Kayla Olson Tuesday / 10 August 10 at 10:07 pm #

      Hey, Tahlia (cool name, by the way!) – thanks for stopping by, and for commenting. Seven drafts/twenty(ish) edits? Way to persevere with it! I agree, after so much work on it, it would be so difficult to let it just sit there and collect dust. All the work wouldn’t be a complete waste, I don’t think, because surely you learned a ton about yourself and how you write. Still, I know what you mean. Again, way to go, that’s awesome.

      Are you working on a new novel now? If so, how far along are you?


  1. Anna and the French Kiss Giveaway « Owl and Sparrow - Monday / 16 August 10

    […] last week, I blogged about the intense and inspiring revision process of author Stephanie Perkins.  So, how cool is it that I — and you — have a chance to win an advanced copy of that very […]

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