How do you know when a draft of a story is done? For me, a first draft is finished when I’ve written it from beginning to end—it might be rough, but the story is on the page.

But subsequent drafts are harder to judge. In my view, the second draft is finished when all the major issues that you know of are resolved. Any research that needs to be done is completed. All plot holes (that you’re aware of ) are filled in. You’ve integrated your critique partners’ or beta readers’ comments into the story.

10969657603_bbbcbc3421_z notebook by Shan Jeniah Burton WANA Commons
photo by Shan Jeniah Burton, WANA Commons

Third drafts and beyond follow the same pattern. We share the story with our critique partners or beta readers and read through the manuscript again. Any problems or concerns that are noted are addressed. Language is polished. Typos are fixed. With every draft, the story is more polished, closer to being ready for the wide world to see. Eventually, the language shines. All aspects of story, from structure to character arc to description, have been addressed. It might take some of us three drafts. It might take others eight.

I’ve been working on second draft of a novella for the past couple months. Some of these criteria have been met. Most of my CPs’ comments have been addressed. But there are still some problems with the middle of the story that need to be dealt with. This past week, I felt like I was playing Jenga. I would change something in one chapter only to realize that that changed the course of events in several more chapters. These seemed like small changes, but they had a ripple effect.

I know the story will be stronger when all is said and done. This week I’ll pull or rework scenes from the middle of the story. Sooner or later, this story will shine.

Sunday ROW80 check-in:


  • Finish a second draft of my novella “Good Old-Fashioned Magic.” Wrote 4,859 words, including a rough synopsis. Three chapters revised/rewritten. I’ve decided to make some changes to the middle of the story, so I’m not as close to finished as I thought—but the story is improving.
  • Write a first draft of a novella novelette. Finished!
  • Read a minimum of four books on the business or craft of writing. Four of four books read. Finished “How to Write Dazzling Dialogue” by James Scott Bell.

Social media:

  • Check in on Twitter or Facebook daily. Target met.
  • Blog two times per week. Target met.
  • Comment on three to five blogs per day, Monday-Thursday. Target met.

A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. It’s also a blog hop!

How are your goals, writing or otherwise, coming along? How do you decide when you’ve finished a draft of a story?

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