re: 3rd Draft . . . Last draft?

in Creative Process/Plot/Teen/Middle Grade Fiction by

Dear Editor…

Now I’m ready to work on the third draft of my YA novel. I’ve never been here before. How do I do this? Should I start over for the 3rd time or just edit parts of it that need work? Is this still the cutting down on characters/bettering the plot time? How do you know when you’re done?



Dear Melody…

Alas, “done” isn’t an empirical pronouncement. It’s “best guess” city. Here are five questions to help you decide if big character or plot changes are still needed: If you take the protagonist as he is in the final scene and drop him back into the first scene of the book, will he behave so differently that you wouldn’t even have a story? Did you force your protagonist out of his comfort zone at crucial moments? Has each obstacle pushed the plot and characters forward? Are the consequences of failure dire enough at each stage of the plot? Does each scene in each chapter contribute to its chapter’s overall goal, and does every chapter contribute to the character’s achievement of his story goal?

If you’re confident answering yes to all, you may indeed be at word-tweaking stage and perhaps last draft. Don’t force it. Louis Sachar wrote five drafts of Holes before he sent it to his editor—and that book went on to win the National Book Award and the Newbery Medal.

Happy writing!

The Editor


  1. These questions are golden. Simple, precise and clear. I made a copy and honestly, they will be my guide on the MG manuscript I am working on (first draft) now. As always, Thanks a million for the guidance. Happy New Year.

    • As a matter of fact, Dave, the speech Ingrid is covering in that post you just linked us to was mine. 😉 (She attributed me at the bottom of the post.) Glad you find it useful information!

  2. Dear Editor is very right on best guess. And each writer and his/her process being different lends itself to different numbers of drafts needed. I need at least three drafts to see the full story. It takes me at least 5 to get to the tweaking stage. That said, each draft is a bit easier than the previous one as the story (hopefully) gets better each time. Good luck!

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