Lessons From the Third Draft
It's never going to be perfectly done, but that's because my story isn't over yet
In Writing the Journey, I write about writing. I share my travel and personal experiences through writing in a lot of contexts, but I also strive to achieve more as a writer. This is where I reflect on that process.
There is something incredibly scary about the final stages of writing a book.
Sending the beta draft to my team was the closest I have ever gotten to having a completed book. I started a camping memoir several years ago that I plan to return to next summer, but that book was never close to finished. This time I had a book that was good and became increasingly better with each comment and suggestion from my team. Over two months, the book slowly evolved into a third draft, 45,000 words that had been carefully poured over by friends and acquaintances who volunteered their time to making my book the best that it could possibly be.
But finishing that third draft was difficult. It was the end of the semester and I was wrapping up the first half of our podcast season.I had planning and grading to do, the holidays to prepare for, and a house that seemed even messier than usual. There were a lot of reasons why I couldn’t just sit down and dedicate time to finishing the book I had worked so hard to complete.
I also had to come to terms with the fears that were keeping me from just diving in to finishing a project that means a lot to me. Am I cutting corners by self-publishing? Who will actually read this? Can I even call myself a real writer? This particular newsletter landed in my Substack inbox just as I was grappling with those questions.
In addition to the roadblocks to finishing my third draft, I’ve also had to come to terms with some of the realities of self-publishing. First, you set your own deadlines (for the most part), which means it is a lot easier to justify putting off finishing the work that needs to get done. Second, doing the work yourself (even if you hire out for certain parts of the project)increases the fear of screwing things up. After all, there are professionals who work in publishing houses for a reason. They get paid to do the things that I was struggling to do on my own. When life happens, it's a lot easier to say, "I'll get to that project later," especially when you are the only one officially holding yourself accountable.
But on Christmas morning, after two days of dealing with frozen pipes and no water and finally having a clear enough head that I could work after we opened presents, I finished my third draft. I had printed out the entire draft and worked for several days on paper, changing words, finding mistakes others had missed, and adding a few more details. After seeing how masterfullyused them in her book Start With Hello, I added footnotes that expanded on a few points that didn’t really flow with the rest of the text. I changed my endnotes to a Works Mentioned page and added a few more pieces that I referenced but didn't directly quote. And I completed an acknowledgements page that, I hope, honors all of the people directly related to the completion of the project.
Now I’m waiting for my editor to finish reading the draft I sent her on Christmas morning and I’m waiting on my cover art. But even with those items on hold, I am finally ready to start the process of uploading to Amazon and scheduling my release date, which I will share with you as soon as I have the publishing prep completed.
So there’s my most recent update. Third draft is complete and I’m ready to actually start the process of uploading it to Amazon, formatting, and preparing for presales. I just have to stop the little voice in my head that keeps telling me that it’s not worth the work I’m putting into it, because I believe in this project and I’m ready to see it through to completion.
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In addition to my beta draft team, I hired a friend to help me with the cover design and another friend to do the final edit for me. Both of those projects are still in progress.
I also recognize that I may need to add a few more people to that page even after I get it back from my editor.