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First Draft Down: Now What?

After nearly 5 months, I completed the first draft of my novel length story. There were several times along the journey when I almost put it away, never to look at it again. But I had to prove to myself I could finish. What kept me focused was watching the story unfold and racing to type not only the final scene, but the final word.

Of course when I finished, I had to tell everyone who would listen. The next question from my friends and family was, “When can we read your book?” As much as I wanted to hand it over and get immediate feedback, I knew my story required deep editing before it would be polished enough for others to read.

So what’s the next step in the process?

Every article I found suggested celebrating and taking a break from the story before doing anything else. What did I do with my time away? Well for those that know me well, I couldn’t sit still.  I read a few good books, jotted down ideas for a new story, submitted a non-fiction story to a literary contest, started a Margie Lawson online course taught by Kathy Ide on self-editing, and worked in a victory dance (or two). Now I’m ready to move to the next step of the process, self-editing and rewriting.

I love this advice provided in a post by Elizabeth Boyle titled, “Rough Draft to Polished Masterpiece: A Guide to Finishing Your Manuscript”:

“Rewriting is the reward for carting yourself across the desert of blank pages to complete your rough draft, but just like the rough draft, it takes some preliminary work before you dive in.”- Elizabeth Boyle

There are several layers of revising. The first step is re-reading the story, chapter-by -chapter and jotting down notes about the plot, characters, dialogue, grammar, and pacing from scene to scene. Overall this stage is helpful to determine if the story is engaging, and as a reader, would they keep reading or put the book down after the first few pages.

The next step is more focused and looks for more specific things to polish the story. Changes are made to the first draft after the line-by-line edit and then the next step is sending the revised draft out for critique and feedback.

The process starts all over again with another layer of revising, more editing and rewriting. This may happen several times before my story is ready to send out to an agent.

I won’t lie; the editing process seems overwhelming. It could take several months to complete the next phase and I’m very impatient. But I’m willing to roll up my sleeves, get to work, and do everything possible to make it a polished story.  I know in the end, it will be stronger and increase my chances of being accepted by an agent and publisher.

As I move forward and navigate the uncharted waters of deep editing, I hope to share more of my writing with you.

It is perfectly okay to write garbage—as long as you edit brilliantly.
– C. J. Cherryh