I've begun reading through the third draft of my novel. The story is 65,000 words long, 25,000 words longer than the rough draft, so the second draft was very productive as far as filling out the story and giving myself more ideas to work with. I've gotten to this point before, with other stories, and it's always been a double-edged sword for me.
On one hand there's a lot of potential here. Reading through the draft, I'm getting a ton of ideas to make the story even better than it is. I'm finding ways to simplify the writing, focus the plot, flush out the characters, enhance my theme, etc., etc.
On the other hand I'm not looking forward to the intense work necessary to implement all, or even a few, of these ideas.
There are two schools of thought here. On one hand it's the “Don't fix what isn't broken” mentality. Some writers, and I include myself among them, edit way too much. And yet there are many writers out there who insist that rewriting is a necessary part of the process.
It's difficult to know which direction to go in. Should I just clean up what I have, or seek to improve the story beyond the writing, getting into the nitty-gritty details of the plot? Either way, the reader won't know the difference, because the reader won't ever read the rough draft. The reader won't know where I started, only where I finished. But what if I do something to ruin what would have been a good scene? What if I screw the story up by changing it?
As Han Solo once said, “Well, that's the real trick, isn't it?”
I think I can improve the story by changing it. How much I'll change it I don't yet know. I hope not that much because I'm a lazy editor, but I'm also a perfectionist and won't stand for sloppy work.
And to think, I had originally hoped to publish this by January first. I can pretty well throw that deadline out the window. I can hope for February first, or even March first, but in the end the date won't matter. I know I won't publish this story until it's perfect—as good as I can make it. If I have to torture myself to get it done, well, that's just what I'll have to do!