Perfection and the Final Draft

[Writer’s Stuff] [About Cat Hartliebe]

So many writers struggle to finish one draft.

For various reasons.

If you truly want to finish the story, you’ll manage to. Spending a little time every day moving it forward will get you to the final product eventually. Fifteen minutes isn’t a lot. You won’t manage a thousand words every day. That’s fine. It’s just forcing yourself to attempt. If you keep trying, keep typing away, you’ll get to the end.

Then what?

How many drafts will you need to go through?

How many reviews and revisions and rewrites will you make?

I can’t give you a number.

For one, it’s hard to say where one edit begins and ends, so I cannot say how many I typically go through. I write the first draft. My goal is to get the main plots down. I don’t worry about description or setting or timeline as much as getting the plot down.

Then I rewrite it adding in description, character complexity, setting, and time. That would be draft two for me. Some people use a well planned outline and end up with a first draft equivalent to my second draft.

Then it’s reread, revise, and edit. The big stuff. The little stuff. Picking out the right word. Making sure the paragraphs aren’t too long. Limiting excessive dialogue. Watching out for heavy description. Taking out parts that hinder instead of help the story move forward.

How many drafts would that take?

I don’t know.

But here’s the thing. You will never manage to make the story perfect. It isn’t supposed to be exactly as the story in your head is. You can’t do it. There will always be mistakes in the end. There will always be another way to write a scene. Perhaps a better way. I don’t know. But no matter what, a story will not be perfect.

You can’t seek that.

I have written an impressive number of words. I have rewritten stories. I’m clearing my backlog and creating new worlds at the same time.

I can’t focus on one story for years seeking the perfect turn of phase for one line in the middle of the book. It’s wasted time and effort.

This isn’t a technical report. We aren’t sending it to a scientific journal wanting thousand of scientists duplicating the work. It’s not your thesis that earns you your PhD. You aren’t handing this to a judge or a professor or a teacher or your master. It doesn’t need to be reviewed until your eyes bleed.

Please just stop.

The story is better than you realize. You’ve made an impressive attempt at creating a world through words. I know that. I see you. You tried. You have a full draft.

How can I prove it?

I can’t easily. But you can. If you’ve attempted a story. You’ve read through it and made some corrections. You are feeling a mixture between elation and trepidation with regards to the work. That’s fine. We all feel that. Even me. Even after a hundred stories. Still.

Give your draft to someone else. Pick someone you trust to be honest. Pick someone who would be interested in your story’s plot/genre. Pick a couple friends.

And say, “Can you tell me what you think?”

or “What star rating would you give this on goodreads?”

or “How can I make this better?”

Your beta readers will do what they do best: read it and answer your simple questions. Realize they are individual people. They have things they key in on. Perhaps the book wasn’t meant for them. Perhaps the book needs a lot more work.

But now you have an idea what is in need of help.

And more than likely they gave you a compliment. Something more than “You finished! Congrats!” So many writers get bogged down seeking perfection.

You can’t.

That’s part of the reason for beta readers. They can tell you: It’s okay; It’s good enough; You’re fine.

I think one of the best responses to give is “Where’s book two?”

Do not fear not being perfect. No one is perfect. Why else do actors learn improv? Because when you’re on stage, fixing mistakes still has to look on point.

When I was on stage for dance, there were errors. Always in some way. The key was don’t let the audience know you did something wrong. As long as you manage that, it’s fine.

That’s the goal.

If the reader doesn’t notice what you call a mistake, then you have succeeded. You deserve a five star. Revel in that.

(For more information on different readers.)

If you want me to give your work a beta read, speak up. You’re reading my stuff. I’d be happy to read yours.


[Writer’s Stuff] [About Cat Hartliebe] [Beta Read or Blog Review] [Reviews]

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