Sitting on the desktop next to the window where I type this is the first PDF distilled from the recently completed fifth draft of The Fall Of The Hammer, my new novel. If I was a filmmaker, this is what I'd call the "answer print" phase: the first version of the film delivered to the studio with sound and picture fully synced and with color correction, but still pending final changes like editing for pacing.
It's always a strange feeling to have in front of you a file that you could in theory just sign off on and deliver as-is to your readers. Very few, if any, story changes remain to be made. I've gone as far as I can go as I am right now with that part of it; the rest would be pending feedback from my hand-picked crew of test readers, or some eleventh-hour-and-fifty-ninth-minute revelation on my part. But I know there's still some work left to be done. I've waited this long to finish it, I can wait a little longer.
Reading over the PDF confirms for me how this book is not remotely like any of the possible versions that preceded it with the same name. Once upon a time, this was a completely different story — no, two stories, possibly three, all with different elements. I have posts in the works that talk about the genesis of this project in great detail, so you'll learn more about that when those posts go live.
But for now I can say, with confidence, the earlier incarnations are all vastly inferior to what ended up here. Inferior if only in the sense that this one is an actual finished product and the others are just nice ideas that never went anywhere. And a finished product, imperfect as it might be, is still better than any nice idea that has nothing to show for it.
Some part of me worries whether or not this scene or that element will work. Some part of me wonders if any of it works. But then I remember a couple of things I've laid down in these very pages both to myself and others. One is, if people want to buy your ticket and take your ride, and you treat them with respect, they'll ride your train wherever it goes. The other is, no story is going to make everyone happy, so don't try to make everyone happy — make happy the people for whom that story is most aimed at.
There's no way I'm going to make major, normative changes to the story this late in the game, unless I have a truly mind-boggling revelation about how it could be improved, whether on my own or by way of a friend. Fix-ups, fine. But the story is as baked as it gets. And I'm already mulling over what comes next.