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You see, the truth about final drafts is that they don’t really exist until someone decides that this draft that you’re holding is indeed the final one. Sometimes that “someone” is the writer, and sometimes it’s an editor, or an agent, or another publishing professional, but the point is that this is yet another subjective step.
I’ve heard it said that the final draft of a book isn’t a real thing—there is a draft, then a published draft, but final one? Final in the sense that it will no longer be tweaked (besides the occasional fix of typos), perhaps. But the perfect draft doesn’t exist, which makes the pursuit of perfection an impossible task.
For unpublished writers without an agent or editor to say this is the draft that will be published, it can be even more difficult to decide when a WIP has reached the final draft (or draft ready for submission, at least) stage. With no one to force them to stop editing, it’s not uncommon for writers to edit with no end in sight.
So how can you tell when you’ve reached the final draft?
There are two major clues to look out for, namely:
- Your betas and CPs are happy. Have I mentioned lately how helpful betas and critique partners are? This is yet another reason why—when you start getting mostly positive feedback (i.e.: most betas agree that you don’t have any major gaping plot holes or huge character problems, etc.) you know you’re definitely close.
- You’re happy. By “happy” I don’t mean that you think it’s perfect, because chances are you’ll never think it’s perfect. But when you read your WIP, you’re no longer cringing at the writing. You look at your work and you don’t feel the need to tweak. Eventually you will reach a point when you feel there’s nothing more you can do to improve your novel, and that’s when you know you’ve reached the end. (For now).
Remember that until publication, there really is no final draft, but there is a happy place where you’ve done enough editing, and that is all you really need.
How do you know when you’ve reached the final draft stage?