So this post isn’t actually so much of a how-to as the title might imply (sorry). It’s actually more of a “what I am going to do next now that I’ve finished a first draft of a novel.” If you can glean any helpful tips from this, please do – if not, then just stay tuned and I’ll put up a more useful how-to-write-better post at some point in the future.
The other night I finished the first draft of the historical fiction that I’ve been working on since last summer. This is a record for me: a full (albeit shorter than normal for me) novel draft finished in less than a year. So here are my next steps for the process:
Step 1: Celebrate. I finished writing an entire book. I created people out of my head, and gave them life for 60,000+ words. And I also gave life to a real person of the past and recreated a piece of history, because this book is historical fiction.
It’s a big deal to finish a first draft. I’ve written multiple first drafts of stories both short and long (and really darn long), but it’s still worth celebrating. You should, too, if you finish a first draft. Many would-be writers don’t even get that far.
Step 2: Leave the manuscript alone for a while. I’ve got some fantasy short stories kicking around in my head, so I’m going to leave this book alone for a month or two and write something different. I think it’s good to not only practice writing different things, but it’s also good to get a little distance from a project that has been consuming my life for the past 10 months.
Step 3: Go back to my original outline and start all over. In a month or two, I’m going to delve back into this book for a second draft. I already know some things that I want to change and/or add, and I’ve gotten some great feedback from my critique partners on this first draft. For the second draft, I plan to re-outline the book, putting in all the changes and additions and mapping out my scenes in greater detail than I did for my original outline.
Step 4: Write. Ultimately, it’s all about the writing. Finishing a first draft of a novel is a big deal, but if I want the book to see the light of day (and for readers besides my duty-bound critique partners to enjoy it), the book needs another draft. Probably quite a few more drafts, but you can’t have a draft #5 without a draft #2 first.
Step 5: Repeat steps 1-4.
So that’s what my current writing plans look like. Writing, re-writing, celebrating, and more writing! After all, that’s what writers do – we write!