What to Do When You Finish a Draft
I finished draft two of my romance novel this past weekend. Woot woot! It still needs work so there was no dancing in the streets or swinging from chandeliers. Just a quiet sigh of pleasure. And there’s always a bit of confusion as I ponder, what do I do next? So I figured a blog post about just that topic was in order.
Let it rest. Simmer, marinate, compost, whatever you want to call it, your brain needs time to do it. You’ve been close to this baby–so close–for months or even longer now. You’ve got to get away and get some distance from it. Give yourself a few days, preferably at least a week. Go off and don’t think about it. Let your subconscious do that while you’re busy playing golf or making soap or doing something, anything but working on your novel.
Decide what happens next. (You can do this while it is composting.) Was this your first time through, also known as the discovery draft, the rough draft, or Shitty First Draft? If so you likely have at least one more draft that you’re going to need to write. But if it is your third or fourth draft, you may be pondering getting it out in the world. So, at his po9int you have a choice to either:
First, of course, you’re going to re-read it. Duh. As you read, make notes. I use the post-it note method for flexibility. You can read about that and my entire theory of rewriting here. I like to keep notes of things that I’ll need to put in next time through, ideas that will make the plot stronger, additions to character arcs. Go through these and see what you’ve got.
Sometimes, this is a matter of going through and dropping things in. For instance, you may have decided on a physical object that is of importance to your protagonist, but you only figure this out fifteen chapters in. So now you need to go back and salt it in a couple times earlier. These are fairly easily accomplished (once you figure out where they go.)
Do these easy run-throughs first and then see where you are. If you are several drafts in, or an excellent first-drafter, you may well feel very pleased with your work, and ready to take the next step. And so, ta-da, it is time to get some fresh eyes on it. You may have a trusted family member who reads all your work, or an agent or editor you work with. Or perhaps you need to find you some:
Beta Readers. These are the most wonderful of creatures, those lovelies who will read your book in its current form and give you feedback on it. You can find them among friends and family (as long as they promise to be honest), amid your writer friends, or on social media. Some of you may already have a trusted group who read your every release. Take their ideas and incorporate them or not as you see fit and get ready to carry on. Woo-hoo! Almost there!
Here you have another choice point. (You probably already know the answer to this.) Are you looking for a traditional publisher or will you publish yourself?
If you are going to self-publish, you will need to find an editor, formatter (or learn to do it yourself), and cover designer. Don’t skimp on any of these, because they can make or break a book’s release. You want your book to stand out from the crowd and actually get purchased, and going the cheap route is not going to do you any favors. Trust me.
And, if you are going to seek traditional publication, you will need to search for an agent. Fun times. It is a process that basically involves writing a query letter, researching agents, and then submitting to them. And a whole lot more. All of which I am going to cover in my upcoming How to Get an Agent class. Which you can read more about here. Summer writing conferences are coming up, with opportunities to pitch, so why not learn all you can about the process and present your work in its best light?
Good luck with whatever stage you are in! And please leave a comment and let me know what draft you’re on and how you’re feeling about it.