While I’m writing, I frequently (and sometimes obsessively) go back over what I’ve written and fix and edit and tweak. So when I finally get the entire manuscript on the page, I can’t really call it a first draft. It’s already gone through several revisions at that point, at least most of it, so it’s really more like a third or fourth draft. But just because I’ve got all the words on the page doesn’t mean that the work is done. (If only that were the case!)
Then it becomes time to read it through, start to finish, and figure out if it makes sense. Fortunately, it usually mostly does. Some more tweaking and fixing ensues in this stage, and also trying to catch all my typos. I’m really bad about typos. So I read it through, and fix more stuff.
And then it’s off to the betas so they can give me their opinions. They’re great about finding the typos I missed (damn typos) and telling me where things need additional work. Where a sentence doesn’t work or isn’t needed. Where what I was going for didn’t come across clearly, or the emotion is too big for what I wanted, or not big enough. They give me all the bits and bobs to polish and make it shinier.
Now everybody has got a different opinion, and what works for one person doesn’t always work for another. I’ve got people who like my stuff (because why would they read for me if they didn’t!) but also have varying degrees of what they like and don’t like. I value my betas more than I can say, and welcome the feedback with a fiery passion. But I’m the writer, and I get final say. So it’s up to me to weed through the critiques they give me, decide what I agree with and what I don’t, and make the changes appropriately. Sometimes that’s really hard, and I get a pain in my belly when I do it.
And that’s where I’m at right now with Something Like Hope. I’ve heard back from some, and am waiting for others. And as I go through all the critiques and try not to cry (:P) I’m making a better book. So by the time I send it to the publisher for consideration, it’s the best book I can make it. Editors will have their own say, of course, but that’s a whole other blog post.