You’ve written a first draft of (potentially) your first book!
Sometimes finishing up a manuscript can feel just as confusing as the pre-production and initial writing stages. The entire process is overwhelming. Let’s just call it how it is.
Once you have crossed the threshold into actually completing that manuscript, you enter into a whole new world of writing wonders.
I hope you’re ready.
Here’s some do’s and don’ts to consider after finishing your first draft.
DO: Give Some Time Between Writing Drafts
Everyone works differently. It’s really important to understand that before we get too involved here.
For me, I say to take at least 3-6 months after finishing your first draft before you go too heavy on the edits.
If there are things you remember from the writing stage that you’d like to work on straight away, cool. And there’s certainly no problem with giving it a once-over as soon as you’ve finished just to read it in its completion. Nor is it a bad idea to make immediate edits based on that reading.
Before you get too crazy about thinking it’s “perfect” after one revision immediately following the first draft, take a breath.
Come back to it in a little while. We’ll talk more about why in a minute.
DON’T: Expect the Editor to “Fix It” For You
Once you do get it cleaned up enough to send it off to an editor, don’t think it’s going to come back as a glistening, gleaming novel ready to hit the shelves.
That is not the editor’s job.
A lot of novice writers get this wrong. After I wrote my first book, I admit I felt the same way.
The editor is only there to point out the areas that need improvement. It is not their job to make those improvements. That lies within the author (you) — who also reserves the right to disagree with the editor’s opinions.
Assuming it’s for good reasons, that is, and not because you’re not open to criticism. But we’ll get there.
DO: Read Grammar Books/Hone Your Writing Skills
Wherever you are in your writing journey, it’s never a bad idea to refresh on some things every once in a while.
There are plenty of books on writing. Plenty of classes on self-editing. A wide variety of content creators with blogs, videos, podcasts, books, have a wealth of information at your fingertips, ready to be consumed.
So consume it.
It’s always a good idea to be open to the thought of growth as a writer. Personally, I never want to feel like I “know” it all. I always like room for growth, and that is a mentality I aim to keep throughout my career.
I have also recently given LinkedIn Learning a go. As of this writing, I am giving it a month’s trial. So far, I think the $240/year price is more than worth it for what you can learn in so many different areas.
So while your manuscript is sitting off to the side waiting for you to have your space from it, educate yourself.
It’ll help you so much when you go in for your first real edit.
DON’T: Submit it to an Agent or a Publisher
Hear me out for a second on this one.
I’m not saying to never submit your work to an agent or publisher. That’s counterproductive.
I’m just saying don’t do it the moment you’ve finished your first draft.
Whether you can nail your pitch and sell it to them or not, please never pitch a book during the first draft stages.
If you get them to agree to read an excerpt, it won’t take long for them to shut it down.
There are thousands of submissions every day. Editors, agents, publishers, and everybody else in the industry doesn’t have time for unfinished work.
And yes — it is unfinished in the first draft stage. Just because you’ve finished writing the book doesn’t mean the book is finished just yet.
The real work is about to begin, remember?
DO: Read the Manuscript as a Reader and Be Real
See, now that you’ve spent some time away from the draft, this will be easier to do.
When you read your own work, you have an attachment to it that nobody else does.
You were there from concept to completion unlike anybody else.
It birthed in your imagination and you brought it to life.
You now understand why authors call their books their babies.
Which is exactly why it’s so hard to edit your own work.
After some space, just be real with yourself when you read the book back over. It’s great if you like it, but if there are things you don’t like, pay attention to that. Denial will only get you so far.
Roll with it as you go. Make the necessary changes. Put in the work. It’ll be worth it in the end.
DON’T: Be Opposed to Critique or Criticism on Your Writing
Since you’re over here editing your own work, you should remain open to critique and criticism from others when you share it.
Beta readers and critique partners are vital for your success.
If somebody has a problem with something or points out areas that need improvement, don’t get defensive. The comments are usually very constructive and are meant to help you produce the best draft possible. On the flip side, you do know the story best. If you disagree with their opinion, just be honest with yourself if they’re actually wrong or if you just don’t want to make any changes.
It’s important to gauge and understand where other people might be confused or lose interest. Yours cannot be the only opinion involved in this.
If you just go straight to self-publication without getting one critique from someone else, you may feel sorely discouraged once the wider readership gets ahold of it — especially if you’re sensitive about reviews.
DO: Be Aware That the First Draft is the Easiest Part of Writing a Book
I’m saying it again.
And I’m hoping you hear me.
Writing the first draft is the easiest part of producing a book.
If this is your first time, this is going to be the hardest pill to swallow.
Anyone who’s ever wanted to write a book knows how daunting the idea is.
Anyone who’s completed a draft goes through the realization that the first draft is the easiest part of the process.
DON’T: Let That Stop You
I’m about to lay down some of the most cliché advice out there.
I hate myself for doing it, but sometimes that cliché advice sticks around for a purpose.
Anyway. Here goes.
When it comes to writing, let me tell you one thing:
Even if it takes you years to get the book polished and looking how you want it, don’t you ever give up.
I’ve been open about various aspects of my own journey, and I have stood in my own way too many times.
You’re only hurting yourself by stopping yourself before you even try. Or by losing your drive in the middle and thinking it won’t all be worth it in the end.
The only way you can ensure a failure is to quit.
The future is uncertain for everybody, and it’s cutthroat out in the world of publication.
Are the chances against you for “success”?
Depending on your definition, probably.
But does that mean you shouldn’t even try?
So, take a breath, screw your head on straight, then get write on in to polishing your masterpiece.