The Writing Process – The Polished Draft
In our previous post, we discussed the the working draft of your manuscript. This week we will be discussing the polished draft. This is not the final draft of your manuscript, as there are a few more steps to the progress before we get there. If you picture your first/working draft as a newly mined mineral, the polished draft is where it becomes a gem. That being said, let’s get started.
Now that you have your working draft, it is time to deal with the quality. The key to success here is a slow and methodical approach. This is the point in your process where taking your time pays off. You have the story told, now you have to make it shine.
One of the best pieces of advice I was given about the polished draft; make sure that every sentence, every paragraph and every chapter are perfect. Now, we all know that perfection will never be reached. No writer ever considers their manuscript to be perfect. That does not mean that we should strive for less however. Perfection is what we should always aim for.
Writing a book is overwhelming. However, there is a way to make it easier to swallow. Let’s take a 100,000 word book for example. As a guide, let us say that 100,000 word book is broken down into 20, 5,000 word chapters. Those 5,000 words are then broken down into paragraphs. Each paragraph is then broken down into sentences. Simply put, it is sentences that make the book. The sentence is the backbone of the story.
When you begin to polish your working draft, start by taking it sentence by sentence. Think about the sentence as each leaf of a tree that makes a forest. It is a painfully slow process. Your goal is to make every sentence sound as good as you can make it. It may take several attempts, but you should not move on until you feel each sentence has reached its full potential.
While making each sentence as close to perfect as possible, they are only a single leaf in the forest picture. The paragraphs are the limbs. The next step is the paragraph. Paragraphs are what drive the story along. Ensuring a constant progression of the story and the plot is what to keep in mind. No matter how well constructed your sentences are, without the paragraph moving the plot forward, your story will get nowhere.
Each paragraph should have a clear and concise topic and purpose. Just as we learned in elementary school, a paragraph has a topic sentence accompanied by supporting information and ideas. They should not be too long or too short. Too short and the purpose is lost, and too long your readers will grow weary. You have to find a happy medium.
The most vital part in driving your plot along is the chapter. In our forest example, the chapter would be each tree. Like the paragraph, each chapter must have a clear topic or event that drives the plot forward. Chapters are also where you need to start paying attention to your word count. Though some will be longer than others, an attempt should be made to keep the work count of each chapter similar. Many readers read a book a few chapters at a time, and too long a chapter may turn them off to future books. Remember, it is all about the reader.
That is how you should tackle your polished draft. It is not going to go quickly, and it is essential that you take your time. Rushing through this step will severely affect the final product. Make sure that you do not overlook even minor details. You want to make sure that you provide your reader with everything they need to see the entire forest.
Next week we will be diving into the least enjoyable step of the writing process, editing and proofreading. Over the next week, keep your pens, pencils or computer keys going and write your hearts out.