How I’ll know when I’m done

I’m writing this novel draft out of order. It’s a weird weird feeling for a reformed pantser who used to start at the beginning and see what happened along the way. It happened by accident–my outline had holes in it when I started writing, and I got stuck on certain scenes, so I started skipping around.

Which, some months later, led me to wonder how I’ll know when I’m done. Getting to the end won’t do it: although I haven’t written the last scene yet, I’ve written pretty close to it, and I still have big gaps earlier in the book. But having no changes to make won’t do it either–I already have plenty of fixes to make for the next draft, but I know I don’t need to make them for the first draft. If I wait until I have nothing to change, I’ll never be done.

If a scene is done enough that the changes I want to make aren’t going to affect the story–or if I (think I) know exactly what effects it will have–then it’s done.

Once all the scenes get to that point? Basically, once the whole plot is in place, I will call the draft done. (Soon.)

So I’m making sure all the scenes are written in actual prose, not just my incredibly verbose detailed scene outlines, adding references to important things that I discover in act 3 to earlier scenes, fixing plot holes, and other major work. Once the bones are in place, I’ll deal with all those other changes.

Of course I’m going to be wrong about how the story will change for draft 2, but that’s draft 2’s problem.

Next week I’ll talk about how I’m using TaskPaper to keep track of what needs to be done in each scene.

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