Other than perhaps actually publishing a book, nothing’s as sweet as that moment when you write the ending of your first draft, whether that’s just a final full stop or if you type out THE END. It’s an amazing feeling. The first time I did it, I remember that feeling quickly being washed over with uncertainty, though. A sense of, ‘What the hell do I do now?‘ came over me. Well, I just finished my fourth, first draft, so I’m beginning to get the hang of it. Here’s what I do:
1. STEP AWAY FROM THE BOOK!
It can be easy to want to dive right back into it, especially if you’re the kind of freakshow that actually enjoys editing. Wanting to crack on with it and fix all those things that have been on your mind since page 12 can be very, very tempting, but I would advise against it. Put the first draft away, at least for a month. Four weeks, in a cloud, on your hard drive or in a drawer. Don’t look at it. You’re going to want to forget as much of it as possible, so that when you look at it again, you can be objective. This isn’t something I’ve invented, Stephen King taught me this, and believe me, it works.
2. Start something else
If you’re eager to keep writing, I suggest starting something new. Yes, right away. I don’t know about you, but my inspiration tend to bounce up and down. If I’m on a roll, I’ll do everything I can to keep rolling, so if I have energy for it I’ll jump straight into something new. Not only will you get a running start on a new project, but it will also help you forget the one you’re going to edit in a while.
But by all means, not everyone wants to have several projects bumping around in their minds at the same time, and I get that. If you don’t want to crack on with something new just yet, take a break. Take a month off from writing, and read instead. Or maybe do research, play video games, catch up with friends. We all know how much of being a writer isn’t about writing, so you could do that: build your brand, start new social media accounts, look for cover artists or editors. You’ll be back to editing your manuscript before you know it, so don’t feel bad about some well-deserved time off.
When it comes to getting back to your manuscript take it one step at a time.
Read it first. Skim it one time, then read it properly a second time. Make some notes. Hold back on diving right into doing corrections and changing things. You want to think about the big picture first, don’t worry about the spelling mistakes just yet. What you’re doing at this stage, is really revising (even though I and so many others call it editing). You’re looking at the story, the characters, the arcs, and seeing what works and what needs to go. Maybe talk it over with a friend, have someone read it. Take your time with it.
When you’ve got the story to where you want it to be, that’s when you start worrying about the typos and the language. And this is also the time you go looking for an editor.
But whatever you do, if you follow my advice on this or not, if you edit as you go, or turn straight to page 1 as soon as you finish your draft… Don’t forget to stop long enough to celebrate. Pat yourself on the back, raise a glass to yourself. You’ve just written a book, and that’s amazing.