So, the book is finished! What’s next? The fun part!
Sitting back and relishing in the afterglow of a job well done?
Yeah, you’d like to think that, but nope. I seriously doubt a book is perfect the first time out of the gate. I know mine aren’t. little things slip through in the writing. Be it continuity issues, ideas that pop up at the end that need to be addressed in earlier chapters or just plain ‘What the crap was I thinking?’ moments, you have to go back and see exactly what your mind has puked out and tried to call great fiction. This puking thing might go on for what we author types like to call a couple drafts, so don’t think for one minute finishing a novel is the end of the road. There’s still a lot of work to do before your editor gets their hands on it and tells you all the stuff you still need to do.
Insert a heart felt groan here.
So what is the secret to getting it near perfect enough to satisfy even the most ardent of editors? There is none so don’t even try. There I said it. But, I will share how I go about getting it done to a certain degree of being perfect.
First off, the puking your brain up draft, or as some people would like to call the first draft.
This is both the hardest and easiest part of the process. Hardest because it is fraught with writer’s blocks, coming up with ideas, getting characters to act the way you want them to, dangling subplots, etc etc etc. You get the idea. Easiest because you’re working with a blank page. You’ve got no preconceived concepts to get in the way of you just writing. You literally have untold worlds to play with and play with them you shall. That’s what writers do, play. You’ve got your characters set in your mind. You know basically what will happen, maybe not when it will happen, but the general idea. And you’re off! Who knows in four or five months you might even be finished?
And, we’re on to second base. Sorry for the pseudo sexual innuendo, but I am a romance novelist.
The second draft is what I like to call the story cleanup stage of the procedure. That’s what this is, a surgical strike to save the life of a good book, and make it better than before, stronger, quirkier, and put a heart into it that beats for the multitude of readers to come. Nurse, we need gauze stat!
So, the book is finished. You might have even presumed to type the end on the last page and everything, but it is far from finished. Things have gone wrong here and there. Now is your chance to fix the fabric of space and time in your universe. With a keen perception of your own shortcomings, you dig in and read your book with the eye of an author. You tweak here, ponder there, and generally see what you did wrong, and pat yourself on the back for the things you did amazingly well. This whole process can sometimes take as long as it took to write the stinking book, but as you grow as a writer, that time is cut down, because you’ve learned your lesson over countless hours of editing. Yay for you! You might even spot some grammatical boo boos.
Doubt it but hey, that’s what the third draft is for!
Bear in mind, this third draft is purely if you have time before you miss that deadline you’ve been dreading. Sometimes you get it done. Sometimes you just smile and cross your fingers. I tend to do that last one a lot, in case you’re wondering. I don’t want to stress this point too strongly, but this is your last chance to spiff things up before the professionals get their hands on it. What does that mean exactly? Fix the grammar to the best of your abilities. Make sure your hero named Studly is named Studly throughout the book and not Stewart on page 134, and Stuart on pages 66, 23, and 189. Trust me, it happens.
Basically, this last edit is your first chance to impress your editor right out of the gate. Sure, it’s a long shot because nobody is perfect. You’ve just spent every free moment of your life on this baby. You’ve lived this thing, but living it puts you too close to the action. Your mind has filled in blanks that your typing fingers haven’t. You’ve stayed up late into the night and garbled sentences that later on your brain sees the way you meant them and allows your eyes to skip off. Don’t beat yourself over the fact. We all do it.
The key to overcoming this is not to take yourself too seriously, and above all things, don’t take things personally. An editor pointing out flaws is not a slam against your work. It’s the truth. We’re flawed individuals, so why shouldn’t our books be flawed too? Learn from your mistakes. Don’t sulk in a corner and blame it on everyone but you. Trust that fresh eyes, see things we can’t. If you can do that, you just might be on the road to growing in your craft. Then, you will be what you’ve always dreamed of being…
An honest to goodness author.