Write A Better Novel: Final Draft

Advice for writing the final draft of a novel, and creating a polished manuscript that's ready to send to the publishers

When you reach the final draft of a novel, the major work should already be done. Now you need to read through your manuscript once more to see if there is anything you missed. If you did the proper amount of work in the second draft, then there should only be a paragraph or two that needs to be reworked, or maybe a sentence that needs to be made shorter or longer.

Read through your manuscript with a critical eye, making sure the words are just right. Don't, though, rework it so much that the writing sounds stale. A good novel does not sound like a machine wrote it. When you're almost sure that your novel is completely finished, then put it away once again. This time, though, leave it for a good stretch of time. Go away and do something else - don't even think about it. Go start working on another novel, even. When you feel like you can really look at the manuscript with fresh eyes, then take it out again, and read it once more.

For this reading, leave the pen behind. Instead, follow any rituals you might have if you were reading any other novel, and read your manuscript as if it were exactly that - just another novel. If you do find something that you don't like, then make a mental note and continue on.



When you finish reading, then rewrite the parts you didn't like, put the manuscript away again and repeat the above procedure. How many time should you go through this ritual?

Your best bet is to do it until you either find nothing wrong, or you get so sick of the thing that you just want to throw it in the fireplace. The latter will probably happen first. In fact, few writers will ever find the former to come true - they will always see something wrong even if there isn't, so I caution against overwriting. It will just make the work sound stale and mechanical. If you find that you can't get an unclouded view of your novel, then give it to a friend or relative to read"┬Žsomeone who is an unbiased reader and not a writer. They'll have a clear perspective and may see something that you've missed. But do take all suggestions will a grain of salt, and trust in your own ability.

When you think that the novel is finally finished, or you're just so sick of the site of it that you would rather listen to a week's worth of Icelandic opera then read it again, then consider it finished. The only things left to do now are: find a potential publisher, and send them the manuscript.

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