As it is January, and I’m hopeful that all of us are going to reach our writing goals in 2018, I’m going to spend the rest of the month focusing on tips and tools to achieve different writing goals. Because we’re all at different places on the path of writing. Being a writer has a thousand different paths, we’re not all on the same one.
Today, I want to talk to the NaNoWriMo winners. First of all, you guys are rock stars. You wrote 50,000 in one freaking month! That’s amazing. You’ve taken a huge step towards the goal of writing a book.
Oh, that’s the scary part, isn’t it? You’re not at the finish line. You’re at a mile marker. An important one, that I don’t mean in any way to belittle. But you’re not done yet.
What follows is an updated, step by step guide to completely finishing your novel. The point here is to get your novel to the point that it’s ready to be sent to an agent or editor if you’re going the traditional route. Or, it’s ready to go to your editor if you’ll be self-publishing.
I do three drafts, generally. Some people do less, but I don’t feel like that gives the draft enough time and attention. Some people do more, but at some point, you need to accept the book for what it is and either roll with it or let it go.
Step one, finish your book.
I know that when I did Nano, 50,000 words weren’t enough for me to finish my book. I was still writing well into December and January. So if you haven’t written the end of your book yet, do that now.
Let it sit
I’m not the only one who advises letting your rough draft sit before you start editing. Stephen King advises it in On Writing. He suggests waiting at least 6 weeks, which I consider a good amount of time. I actually put each draft aside when I’m done, and work on something for the other series. As an example, when I finished the rough draft for Sandwashed, I wrote the rough draft for Station Central. When I finished that rough draft, I started on the second draft of Sandwashed. So the amount of time I let it sit was dependent on how long the next project took me.
The first edit your novel should go through is a major edit. This means you’re doing what might be a major rewrite of your novel. You go through the rough draft, writing down every single thing wrong with your novel. This is where characters die. For instance, my characters from Broken Patterns used to have a grandmother. Used to.
Outlines change, characters names change. Your whole story might be completely different at the end of this draft. This is the draft that usually takes me the longest. Not only because it’s a major rewrite, but because it’s the first time my book has been typed.
Your book is probably in a lot better shape now than it was to start with. Now is the time go through and find the things you might have missed the first time around. This is the first draft that I print out, usually. It gives me a different perspective.
This is also the draft where I start really considering how I’ve said something, and why I’ve said it the way I have. I’ll often read the whole book out loud this time around. I’m listening for poor dialog and clunky sentences. Anything that sounds stupid in general.
This is my last chance to go through the book and do some housekeeping. Grammar, spelling, character descriptions. Everything gets cleaned up here. It’s my last chance to make the book as good as it can be.
And that’s it. At this point, I feel like the book is ready for other people to look at. This is when I bring in a few beta readers. Then, and only then, am I ready to send the book to my editor.
So what do you think? Are you ready to edit your book in 2018? Let us know in the comments below.