All of us failed to match our dreams of perfection. So I rate us on the basis of our splendid failure to do the impossible. William Faulkner, 1958
I love the discovery draft. I love the creative, pell-mell rush of world-building, exploring the characters, and unfolding the plot. I’m currently on page 108 of the fourth Abishag mystery and enjoying every particle of its writing. I start each day re-reading the fruit borne yesterday; I finish each day by printing that section. Watching the binder fill is like measuring the weight of diamond dust—satisfying in volume but terrifying in the uncertainty of its value.
In June, I’ll take the discovery draft through a multi-step editing process. Not as exciting. It has sparks of creativity, but mainly I’m examining the book as a whole, then each chapter, then scenes, then the paragraphs, and finally word choices. Then I spend hours agonizing over commas and colons. My revisions include proofing, conceptual changes, developmental modifications, ornamenting various descriptions, and back to proofing. When I have a mature draft (and only I know what I call a mature draft), I pass it to my beta readers.
I love my beta readers. I’ve used them for the three published Abishag mysteries, and the crew in numbers and characters differed every time. They comment on what works and what doesn’t. They ferret out spelling and grammar problems and locate punctuation errors.
We are all fallible, and any manuscript illustrates that fact. The point of using editors and beta readers is in the hope that we are differently fallible. I’m grateful that my final drafts are cleaner for them.