What’s so special about your book’s second draft?


This is what I consider the final-write draft, with (almost) all of the last changes inserted in the file so it can get its final proofreading. Be generous with changes, improvements, double-checked research, interviews, and so on. Last chance to make your book hum. (But don’t dally forever either.)

I recall reading Dick Perry (in One Way to Write Your Novel, one of my favorite writing books) suggesting that you set your manuscript aside for two weeks before you write the final draft, to get some perspective after a long, almost-daily courtship putting it together. Makes sense for fiction or non-fiction.

Mostly, I’ve done that—to great benefit. What seemed obvious while I was feverishly composing just seemed dimwitted a couple of weeks later. I found myself deleting and restructuring and adding a chapter or combining two. And that was before I looked at others’ suggestions!

Perry also recommended boiling out most of the adjectives—how many do you need to get into a pristine forest?—and pruning anything ending with an “ly,” along with most of the other adverbs. I took that to heart, too, and it made my prose cleaner and clearer.

Since you have likely sent parts of the book to experts in that particular topic, now you check what the others have said about the sections you asked them to read. Your first question, “Will that better serve your book’s purpose?” If so, is it an improvement?

Sometimes one suggestion will give you a completely different perspective on how to better explain your context. Or it will indicate steps you left out or perhaps erroneously deleted. The comments more often contain wee changes that require a yea or nay and ten minutes of repair.

When the body of the book is as good as you can make it, look again to see if your editing requires related changes in the table of contents. Also look at the final layout to see if, in the bound edition, you are going to have blank pages on the left side of the text, between chapters. (In nonfiction, all chapters start with an odd number (like 3 or 5, not XC%5 or the like) that you may want to fill. To fill those pages with interesting text, I use quotations from others related to my theme. This will tell me if I must comb the quote books and get 6-10 solid quotations, plus the birth-death dates of each person quoted. I put those in a file and guard them until the next step.

Is the book ready to be read by a professional proofreader? If so, about the only things left for you to do is to paginate the pages and prep an index. After, of course, you make the alterations and corrections suggested by your final proofreader. Finally, you must proofread this after-correction text very carefully. It’s your eyes only! (Most of the very few errors I’ve had in my 46 books came from inattention to what I tacked on last.)

Can fame and fortune, and real printed authorship, be far behind?

(I explain the entire writing and editing process in How to Get Your Book Published Free in Minutes and Marketed Worldwide in Days. Plus how to publish it free!)

Best wishes. And keep at it…

Gordon Burgett

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