The 6th draft is the hardest part

Maybe the first draft was the most difficult to write, given that it took me five years. But this editing is like removing one’s teeth by oneself. With a pliers. And no pain-killer. Draft 6 is killing me softly.

Draft 1: Written in three parts. The first 15,000 words or so were written in 2006, begun at a memoir writing workshop. The second 15,000 words were written in November 2009 during National Novel Writing Month (you’ve got 57 days to give some thought to your NaNoWriMo effort this year). The final 45,000 words were written in May and June, when my job was disintegrating and my husband challenged me to finally finish the book I had been talking about for five years.

Draft 2: The first draft was a mess of tenses and unfinished thoughts. My husband was my first editor, pushing me to fill in blanks I was too uncomfortable to fill in.

Draft 3: I sent Draft 2 to my mother, my sister, my best friend since eighth grade, a friend with whom I worked for four years and my brother-in-law. Their suggestions and questions formed Draft 3.

Draft 4: My editor took a clinical unbiased view of my manuscript, and he suggested the removal of the words “a lot” and “things” and encouraged more active verbs. These nuances require deep thoughts. What did I really mean by “It was so much better, being real” in Chapter 26?And who knew an epilogue could be so fraught with telling too much and too little at the same time.

Draft 5: While the manuscript was with my editor, my mother-in-law, a friend of a friend and another friend reviewed Draft 3 and offered insightful suggestions not offered by those closest to me.

And here we are at Draft 6, a compilation of my editor’s comments, the comments of the friends once removed and the advice from a former agent who suggested I needed more “beauty” in my writing. Like the Richter Scale, each draft number is 10 times harder than the last. I’ve been stuck in the quagmire of Draft 6 for six weeks, alternately impressed with my writing and appalled by it.

Let’s not even discuss Draft 7 at this point. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.


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