So Here’s a Question…

How do you decide a draft is done?

I’ve been working on the fourth draft of my novel (at least, I think it’s the fourth draft but it’s probably only like a 3 1/6 draft .  Keep reading and you’ll understand why I’m not even sure what qualifies as a draft).  For the last couple days I’ve focused on the final twelve pages or so, trying to get them whipped into decent shape before calling this draft complete.  Well, today I’ve realized all sorts of stuff I need to change (lots of minor details but also rewriting several scenes).  And now I’m not sure how to proceed.

I can’t decide whether to
A) finish messing with the final pages and then start a whole new document for my next draft or
B) finish messing with the final pages AND go back to make minor changes throughout entire ms before starting a whole new document for the next draft

Is there a compelling reason to choose one approach over another?  How do you handle this?  I’m wondering whether I’ll lose stuff I might end up wanting if I make all those changes yet I also think if I call this draft complete, then I’ll, what?  I’m not really sure what I’m worried about.  All I know is neither approach is screaming out to me.  Man, I’m some kind of confused right now.

And here I am asking for advice on a Friday afternoon in July. 

Help!  Anyone out there?

                        

30 thoughts on “So Here’s a Question…

  1. Hmmm. I have about a gazillion drafts for each book. Or sometimes it seems that way.
    First of all, work on what’s speaking to you. Which means probably the last pages. Write down all the questions niggling at you. Finish the end, save the document as is.
    Then open a new one and tinker away. Basically, EVERY time I work on a draft, I save it with that days’ date, unless it’s really, really minor stuff. But especially if I’ve cut or added a scene, or paragraph…whatever. If it’s a significant revision, I make sure I save that document under the new date. When I’m ready to write again, I open the most recent version.
    Many times, when I wish I hadn’t deleted something, I can relate the scene change to a time, a conference, a school event, something that was going on when I changed it. Enough to know that it should still be in the documents dates — to —. Make sense? So I don’t really lose it.
    I have a writer buddy who hits save every time he opens his wip. He says he NEVER saves to a new document. I’m not confident enough to do that. Like Cynthia Lord when she deleted and re-wrote the entire RULES ms.
    Anyway, that’s what works for me. I’m not sure if that’s what you were asking, but, there ya go.

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    • I can’t imagine saving a new document every day. That scares me to think of so many documents and the high potential for confusion (I know they’re dated but you don’t know me and my computer issues. Ahem) It’s so interesting how different writers use different approaches.
      What’s weird is I can’t ever remember wishing I hadn’t deleted something because my changes are always for the better (until that point when you’re done but keep working on teeny details until you realize Enough Already!)
      Thanks so much for the response. I’m mulling this over.

      Like

  2. Hmmm. I have about a gazillion drafts for each book. Or sometimes it seems that way.

    First of all, work on what’s speaking to you. Which means probably the last pages. Write down all the questions niggling at you. Finish the end, save the document as is.

    Then open a new one and tinker away. Basically, EVERY time I work on a draft, I save it with that days’ date, unless it’s really, really minor stuff. But especially if I’ve cut or added a scene, or paragraph…whatever. If it’s a significant revision, I make sure I save that document under the new date. When I’m ready to write again, I open the most recent version.

    Many times, when I wish I hadn’t deleted something, I can relate the scene change to a time, a conference, a school event, something that was going on when I changed it. Enough to know that it should still be in the documents dates — to —. Make sense? So I don’t really lose it.

    I have a writer buddy who hits save every time he opens his wip. He says he NEVER saves to a new document. I’m not confident enough to do that. Like Cynthia Lord when she deleted and re-wrote the entire RULES ms.

    Anyway, that’s what works for me. I’m not sure if that’s what you were asking, but, there ya go.

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  3. I’m here, here, here… (echoes in the emptiness of Friday)
    I would suggest option B but insert “take a two week break from ms” before starting a whole new document for the next draft.

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    • Hey there!
      Hmm. It’s funny but when I read your suggestion, something inside relaxed a bit. I think that’s what I wanted to do but was afraid to do for some bizarre reason.
      This writing stuff can really twist your head into knots, can’t it?
      Thanks so much for the lifeline, Jennifer.

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  4. I’m here, here, here… (echoes in the emptiness of Friday)

    I would suggest option B but insert “take a two week break from ms” before starting a whole new document for the next draft.

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  5. I can’t imagine saving a new document every day. That scares me to think of so many documents and the high potential for confusion (I know they’re dated but you don’t know me and my computer issues. Ahem) It’s so interesting how different writers use different approaches.

    What’s weird is I can’t ever remember wishing I hadn’t deleted something because my changes are always for the better (until that point when you’re done but keep working on teeny details until you realize Enough Already!)

    Thanks so much for the response. I’m mulling this over.

    Like

  6. Hey there!

    Hmm. It’s funny but when I read your suggestion, something inside relaxed a bit. I think that’s what I wanted to do but was afraid to do for some bizarre reason.

    This writing stuff can really twist your head into knots, can’t it?

    Thanks so much for the lifeline, Jennifer.

    Like

  7. I’m here!
    Why would you start a whole new document? Are you going to revise it from your current doc and re-type the whole thing?
    *confused*
    I would revise on the same document until you feel it’s good enough for an agent or an editor’s eyes. Pretend you are them reading it for the first time. What would you think?
    Honestly, even PROS say they could tinker w/ their ms. forever (and once this is in an editors hand they will change it all around anyway)–the MOST important thing is the opening. It has to have everything: voice, characters, gripping concept…I’d make sure those first few chapters are top notch. Hope that helps…

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    • Sorry I wasn’t clear, Heidi. What I was wondering was whether I should call this draft complete and then save as draft five to the file and start working in that one.
      Now that I’ve been away from the situation for a few hours, I can’t really remember what all my angst was about. I think I’m going to do all I need right now before starting the new draft (after some time away from it).
      Thanks much for weighing in on my dilemma!

      Like

      • i’ve really only saved about 3 drafts of SEA—if i resaved after ever tinkering, oh lord, i’d have about 500 drafts–
        same with the WIP, i only have one draft and i erase as i go and add, if there’s something lovely that i must keep i paste it elsewhere–i know now that words are expendable…

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  8. I’m here!

    Why would you start a whole new document? Are you going to revise it from your current doc and re-type the whole thing?

    *confused*

    I would revise on the same document until you feel it’s good enough for an agent or an editor’s eyes. Pretend you are them reading it for the first time. What would you think?

    Honestly, even PROS say they could tinker w/ their ms. forever (and once this is in an editors hand they will change it all around anyway)–the MOST important thing is the opening. It has to have everything: voice, characters, gripping concept…I’d make sure those first few chapters are top notch. Hope that helps…

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  9. You need space and distance to gain perspective and clarity. Walk away from your draft. Right now. Do something else that engages your brain and your body. Then come back and look at it again.
    Those are just my thoughts, on a Friday afternoon in July.

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    • It must be that lavender clearing my head…..
      As I just noted in the comment above, being away from this for a few hours has already erased my angst and I know what I want/need to do. And you’re right about the distance; once I finish this draft I’m putting it away for a week or two.
      I appreciate you helping out this crazed writer. Thank you.

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  10. You need space and distance to gain perspective and clarity. Walk away from your draft. Right now. Do something else that engages your brain and your body. Then come back and look at it again.

    Those are just my thoughts, on a Friday afternoon in July.

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  11. Sorry I wasn’t clear, Heidi. What I was wondering was whether I should call this draft complete and then save as draft five to the file and start working in that one.

    Now that I’ve been away from the situation for a few hours, I can’t really remember what all my angst was about. I think I’m going to do all I need right now before starting the new draft (after some time away from it).

    Thanks much for weighing in on my dilemma!

    Like

  12. It must be that lavender clearing my head…..

    As I just noted in the comment above, being away from this for a few hours has already erased my angst and I know what I want/need to do. And you’re right about the distance; once I finish this draft I’m putting it away for a week or two.

    I appreciate you helping out this crazed writer. Thank you.

    Like

  13. Why do you have to start a whole new doc? With my current revision to deeper third person, I just started working on the original doc but when I saved it re-named it Book rev. So now I have the original, and also Book rev.
    I normally don’t save old drafts b/c I find them confusing. These are the only drafts I have on my computer. Though I do have some crazy old chapters from way a long time ago. Like, way before you or I was born. Like, really a long. long time ago.
    I think I should go to bed, now.

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    • I misspoke about the whole new doc because I’m a computer illiterate. I just meant working on a draft but renaming it when I start a new round of revisions.
      And you’ve piqued my interest about those crazy old chapters from before either of us were born. Share!

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      • I get it. At times this WIP feels ancient, too. I try to avoid thinking about how long it’s been since I started the project because that gets me thinking about gray hair and wrinkles and ………

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  14. i’ve really only saved about 3 drafts of SEA—if i resaved after ever tinkering, oh lord, i’d have about 500 drafts–

    same with the WIP, i only have one draft and i erase as i go and add, if there’s something lovely that i must keep i paste it elsewhere–i know now that words are expendable…

    Like

    • Thanks for admitting to sharing this particular confusion. It really was an odd sensation, trying to sort through the angst and wanting so much TO DO THE RIGHT THING! Whew.
      Hope things are going well in your revision cave, De.

      Like

  15. I’m glad the lavender, plus the wonderful insights of your LJ friends, helped you realize what your gut was already telling you to do. I’m glad also that you posted this question. It’s helpful for me to see the questions you pondered, plus the answers everyone here have suggested. (I would also have voted for option B, for whatever that’s worth.)

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  16. I misspoke about the whole new doc because I’m a computer illiterate. I just meant working on a draft but renaming it when I start a new round of revisions.

    And you’ve piqued my interest about those crazy old chapters from before either of us were born. Share!

    Like

  17. Thanks for admitting to sharing this particular confusion. It really was an odd sensation, trying to sort through the angst and wanting so much TO DO THE RIGHT THING! Whew.

    Hope things are going well in your revision cave, De.

    Like

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