A Great Third Draft
For me, the third draft is about copy-editing. Tightening the words, so everything is succinct. The third draft makes sure the right word is in the right place. I like doing my third draft. I work in hard copy, sliding a ruler under each line, and read line by line down the page, following the ruler. This stops me skimming, makes sure I consider each word carefully. I often do this in a cafe, just for a change of scene.
I save my draft two file, make a new one, called ‘Draft Three’ – duh – and insert the hardcopy changes as track changes. It’s time-consuming, of course, but it’s also fun, because it’s a chance to see if the premise and themes I dreamt of so long ago are coming together, that the story kind of hums along.
The big problem that I have is the continual second-guessing. Oh, but will this appeal to a reader? To an agent? To a publisher?
3 Tips to a Successful Third Draft
1- Consider a Critique Partner (CP).
A CP is someone who reviews and comments on your chapters. Preferably, someone who will be brutally honest, without fair of reprisals. Don’t use a family member, or a neighbour, or a friend. You need someone to tell you the parts that are boring, or which scenes don’t make sense.
Personally, I don’t find it too useful to have a CP until draft three, because up until this point, there’s so many changes. But after draft three, it’s invaluable. Especially for the all-important first three chapters.
Where Can I Find a CP?
- If you’re doing a creative writing course, well then, it’s obvious. You’ll have more than enough eyes on your manuscript.
- You can join a writing group. Google writer’s groups + [the town you live in]. Or look up your local Writer’s Society. Here’s the link to the New Zealand Society of Authors
- You can join a special interest group – such as a Romance Writers Association
- Or – and here’s a special tip from me to you: join Ladies Who Critique . LWC is kind of like a speed dating service for writers, matching writers with critique partners. I’ve found it useful and its a good way to chat with other writers, all from different parts of the world, with varying experiences. Ignore the ‘ladies’ bit. They welcome men, too. 🙂
- Focus on your first three chapters.
2- Focus on your first three chapters and your ending.
Your first three chapters are the ones read by agents, editors and readers. Actually, the first three words, the first three paragraphs, the first three chapters. If you spend time polishing anything, polish these parts of your story. And don’t forget the ending. Endings are what we remember the most, and a great ending makes a reader keen to read another of your books.
3- Allow for length changes.
You may lose a lot of words in draft three. I usually lose about 10 – 20 percent. This means that if I’m aiming for a final word count of say 70,000 (average for a YA novel), I need to write about 100,000 to ensure I still have enough words for my manuscript. By contrast, some writers find they increase their word count. Whatever works for you, just be prepared for changes.
4 – And at the end of Draft Three – will my (good) novel finally be finished?
It’s up to you. If you are happy with it, then yes, perhaps. But for me – no. I will keep going on redrafting for quite a little longer.