Feeling the Draft(s), First to Final

Because what I do for a living often seems like magic—I come up with an idea and *POOF* you have the book in your hand—I thought I might do a series of spoiler-free blog posts about the actual process. (Though rest assured—it’s still pretty magical.)

The Lantern's Dance

April 1: first draft sent. (I talk about the earlier stages in a previous post, here.)  I come to the end of the initial draft of Lantern’s Dance on the last day of March. At this point, it is 59,000 words—meandering, uncertain, occasionally repetitive words. This is the version I send only to the people who know how to read between the lines of a first draft and see what the book—with work—is going to be: my editor and my two agents, literary and film. With it I send a list of points that I already know I need to address, including the acknowledgment (lest my editor panic at the word count, which is that of a long novella) that it needs another 20,000+ words.

May 5: conversation with my editor.  We go over the points that I’d sent her, add in those she picked up, and decide the directions for the rewrite.

June 23: I send a progress report, saying:

I’ve finished the second draft (which has added 13K words) and have a jillion Postits for the third and probably final (is there ever actually a final?)  It’s looking pretty solid for sending to you in July, with luck the middle of the month.

July 5: I finish the 3rd draft, now 77,000 words, and wrote to ask if she wanted to see it then, or if she wanted to wait until I had gone through it myself to check my changes—and also, if I could send it to those of my team of Beta readers who didn’t mind looking at it even while it was still rough. (I always check my editor’s schedule, especially during in the summer, because people have lives and other commitments, and there’s no point in sending her something she won’t have a chance to look at for a month.) She agreed to delay while I went through it again, so I shot it out to Team LRK—again with a list of specific points I wanted them to look at. This is especially helpful for readers who aren’t professional editors: if no one asks you whether Damian’s motivations make sense or if the parallels drawn between the zoetrope images and the journal images are clear (that’s stuff in the book) would most people stand back and think about whether or not they do?

Their feedback is SO helpful, in all kinds of areas. Some of them caught things about one or another of the series characters I’d got wrong. Others gave me areas they found a tad confusing. Their questions and suggestions about the emotional balance of the story were incredibly helpful—and if you think that works, when you eventually read it, thank them. (They’re in the book’s acknowledgments, naturally!)

July 27: the almost-final draft goes off to the editor. I know that this isn’t going to be the final final draft, but I decided to get my editor’s feedback on the last 2 chapters before I tackled them. At the time, I was being told in no uncertain terms that the absolute, end-of-it-all, cutoff deadline to turn the final thing over to the copyeditor and Production was August 15. So we were pushing matters now. She and her assistant editor both did an amazingly fast turnaround (my apologies to any of their other authors who got no work out of them for those days) and—

August 2: she returns her notes and an e-marked manuscript, with notes to my list of points (the third such list) that I still had questions on. I am vastly relieved that she and I agree: there are three areas that require work, mostly in those ending chapters.

August 8: I send the FINAL draft off. It’s now just under 86,000 words. I get cramps from crossing my fingers….

August 11: I hear back from her.


I am so so happy with this final draft. See my notes attached, but I don’t have any further changes. I’m going to get this into production! I think yes, that pub date is confirmed.

And now? Now I’m waiting for the copyeditor to have her wicked way with the manuscript, changing all my periods to commas and removing all the ungrammatical but Russellian commas. With luck, she’ll catch any lingering artifacts of earlier drafts.  I may write a last Process blog about those last fine-tuning efforts. In the meantime, it’s back to crossed fingers…


Yes, you can pre-order those 86K words of The Lantern’s Dance from: Bookshop Santa Cruz (signed); Poisoned Pen Books(signed); Bookshop.org (supporting Indie booksellers); Barnes & Noble; or Amazon.


  1. Chris on September 1, 2023 at 3:53 pm

    Would it be cheeky to ask about input from your UK editors? Are they involved at these points, or just once the final draft is good to go? 🤔

  2. Rosalind on September 8, 2023 at 9:04 am

    Beautiful blouse

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