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.