Today I finished the first draft of the fifth book in my Show Me series. It runs 89,003 words.
My two invaluable critique partners have been commenting on each chapter as I wrote draft 1. They notice every questionable word and comma, illogical behavior or plot twist, information dump or lack of clarity.
I’ll probably cut about 2,000 words from draft 1 by weeding out paragraphs with unnecessary information, interactions with little point, jokes that don’t work, descriptions readers don’t need, and other distractions.
A big concern on draft 2 is checking for consistency, particularly in descriptions of setting and characters and in the way each character speaks. I also will make sure of consistency of spelling in such terms as dog walker/dogwalker.
The manuscript won’t get a lot shorter because I’ll look for places where I need to add or alter descriptions and dialogue to give depth to characters. Now that I’ve reached the end of the book, I know the new characters much better and can reveal them to readers in subtle ways I couldn’t when I first met them.
When I finish draft 2, I’ll give the manuscript to trusted readers who haven’t seen it before. They give me mostly big-picture feedback on plot and characters and comments on places they find hard to follow, slow, or even particularly entertaining.
Then I’m ready to do the final draft, the one in which I polish every chapter, page, paragraph, sentence, and word. I’ll read portions aloud as I go, and finally I’ll read the whole thing aloud. I always hear places where the cadence is off, a word has been overused, too many sentences have the same structure, a word has been left out or inserted or misspelled. I even find missing periods.
Draft 1 is done. On to draft 2.