On finishing your first draft, what next?

Today is a rather momentus day if I do say so myself. Today I completed the first draft of the manuscript I have been working on since the first of november. To some that may seem quick, starting on the 01/11/16 and writing the wonderful words ‘The End’ on the 25/01/17, to others it may sound slow and for me? Well now looking at those two dates it seems rather quick, but throughout the process it has felt very long indeed.

Today it feels appropriate to discuss what happens when you finish the first draft and luckily, this not being my first book I feel I am in a reasonable position to do just that. When you are writing it can feel like an endless process and as discussed in one of my earlier posts you will undoubtedly hit the wall at some point. That point where it feels like you cannot go on, where every few hundred words feels like a trial but once you do pass that and finish…it can in all honesty get a whole lot worse.

Sure the first draft was hard, maybe it was even torture but what now? Where before you had the constant forward momentum of knowing tomorrow you had to write the next chapter of the book. Now that is gone, now you are left with the question of….what do I do now? So the first thing is to think of what you are NOT going to do.

1) You are not going to send it to anyone, no really, I mean that. DO NOT SEND YOUR MANUSCRIPT TO ANYONE. If you just finished your first draft no matter how good it felt when you wrote it, it is not finished and it is in no way ready to send to an agent or publisher. To do so would be a waste, you will usually only get one chance to make a first impression with a book and if it isn’t the best it can be…well then you just wasted that opportunity. Further you shouldn’t send it to your friends, family or beta readers. The initial edit will be yours and you really don’t want anyone else to read your book before you have had a first crack at fixing the probably numerous problems it has.

2) You are not going to write a new book, I mean why would you? This book is not finished, writing a first draft (though it is more than many would be writers will ever do) is not finishing a book. You wouldn’t stop half way through the first draft to write a different first draft would you? So why stop half way through writing the book. Repeat this to yourself, for this will be your mantra WRITING A FIRST DRAFT IS NOT WRITING A BOOK.

Well now we have that out of the way, maybe we should move on to what you actually SHOULD do. The fact of the matter is you need to get to editing. If you look at how to books or websites you will see lots of different names for specific types of edits and processes and while that is great I would caution against getting stuck in terminology. Like writing itself, editing too will be different for everyone, and indeed for every project.

With my first book I added no scenes and I only took away one, with my current manuscript I already know that there are several scenes I need to add and others I need to change.So where with my first manuscript I went straight to line edits with this one there is far more work to be done. There may be something to be said about that with regards to me having grown as a writer but largely it is just a matter of each book being different.

With that said here is my advice to you. First of all read the whole book with the intention of changing nothing, read it from cover to cover and take it in as a reader rather than as a writer. Then read it again making notes of everything you don’t like or want to change and any scenes you think need to be added (for example, if in one scene you refer to the old bank heist but you realise that you never actually wrote that bank heist, now would be the time to fix that). Once you have written all the things you need to do, read it a third time and make these changes. Once complete read it through again and repeat the process.

Once you are completely happy with the general shape and form of the story then it is time for line edits, by that I mean removing typos, correcting spelling mistakes and making messy sentences much prettier. As before read the book, make the changes and repeat time and time again. There is no magic number of times but I would say this; repeat until you either are 100% happy and feel you cannot possibly improve it, or until you are so sick of reading it that you never want to see the book again.

Once this is done, and only once this is done it is time to consider agents or publishers but that is a matter for another time.

I shall leave you with this: we can never give up longing and wishing while we are thoroughly alive.

Ja Ne.

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