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Drafting those many drafts: The 10 revision phases

Before your novel is ready for publication, it should endure each of these draft phases first.

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Draft 9: How did I miss that? 

Now that you’ve changed what needs to be changed, it’s time to check your grammar. This draft might be more daunting for some whose strengths lay outside commas and semicolons. You don’t want to do this draft too early in the writing process, as there’s no point in painstakingly going over work that’s only going to be scrapped or changed so much that you are going to have to go over it again (and again) later. Honestly, grammar is not my strong suit, and so while there are things I can check and change, I prefer to ask a professional. My grandmother-in-law is a pro at grammar, so I usually go to her. Chances are you might have to call in favors. You may want to hire a professional if grammar is just not your thing. That might cost a bit of money, but when it comes to getting your book out there, it’s worth it.

Draft 10: Could I be finished? Really? 

Here is where you read for any glaring errors. A forgotten word or something not caught in the grammar edit. You read to see that it all makes sense, but mostly what you’re really reading for is to say, “It’s good, it’s really good.” This is where you ask the question, “Does it read like a book?” And answer wholeheartedly, “YES!” If the answer is not “YES!” do not fret; go back, keep editing. Repeat draft three, draft four; consider what still needs work and revise until it’s finished.

Once you answer, “YES! It’s really a book,” your novel is ready to go out into the world, whether it’s to an agent, a small press, or maybe you’re embarking on the self-publishing journey. And by the way, once an agent, editor, or small press gets their hands on your novel, there’s going to be a whole new round of drafts to go through. Take comfort in the fact that everyone simply wants your book to be the best it can be.

What’s important to remember is that creating a novel takes time beyond just its writing. Just like you didn’t know how awesome and complicated and weird your best friend or lover was until you spent a meaningful amount of time with them, your novel will grow, change, and show you things about itself the more time you spend with it. So be prepared to spend – and enjoy – that time writing drafts.



Jessica Stilling is a published novelist and short story writer. She lives and teaches in New York City.

Originally Published