You’ve finished your draft. Well done!
It takes a lot of time and work to finish your draft, but what do you do when it’s finished?
Here’s a bit of a break down of what your next steps might be:
1. Let it sit for a while.
You’ve put your heart and soul into writing your draft, and it’s probably taken months or even years of effort. It’s a great idea to just leave it for a while, whether that’s weeks or months. Give yourself time to appreciate what you’ve achieved and to distance yourself emotionally before you let in the criticism, even if it’s constructive.
2. Get it read for fun.
This first reading should be someone you trust, whether that’s a friend, family member, partner or writing buddy. Again, build up a little confidence before you invite in the criticism, so that you don’t feel defeated and scrap the whole thing.
3. Get it read for feedback.
Again, this should be someone you can trust, but with a bit of knowledge in the area. This is normally where a beta reader fits in, and may result in some feedback or suggestions you can take on board.
4. Start re-writes.
If you’ve got some useful advice or helpful suggestions, take a bit of time to re-write the sections in question. And if you’re inspired to add or change more, do!
5. Get it appraised.
A manuscript assessment or appraisal is a great place to start when it comes to editing. It’s much more comprehensive than a beta read, but written as a letter or report so there’s no need to fear the dreaded red pen/track changes yet. An appraisal will go through the draft and point out which areas are strong and which ones could do with some revision, and offer suggestions to help you. (Authors don’t usually seem to know about this service, but they love the results!)
6. Continue the re-writes.
Hopefully your appraisal has left you feeling inspired or re-invigorated. If you’re starting to doubt how good your writing is now, try to remember that you’ve learnt so much by this point, and your standards are getting higher.
7. Consider a developmental or structural edit.
If you’re planning on publishing your work, an important step before copyediting is developmental editing. This could be like a second manuscript appraisal, or more of a track-changes type deal with comments in the document itself. Its job is to check that your plot, characters, setting, etc. are as strong as they can be, and to follow-up on any issues raised in the manuscript appraisal.
8. Get it copyedited.
Copyediting involves fixing the grammar, punctuation and sentence structure of your finished manuscript. A copyedit can also sometimes comment on issues of consistency and factual accuracy. It’s good to check what the editor will cover so that you know you’re on the same page.
9. Get it proofread.
Proofreading is the last editing step, and involves checking for any remaining errors and also checking typesetting issues if you’re preparing for publishing.
10. Achieve your dream!
Whether you’re submitting to a competition or a publisher, or publishing yourself, it’s time! Your book/short story is the best it can be. Congratulations!
This is, of course, just a guide. Your writing journey doesn’t have to look like this, it’s just to give you an idea of the order of some of these steps.
You might do one step multiple times. You might also need the services of a line/stylistic editor, or a sensitivity reader. You might not be able to afford edits at all (editing is expensive, but worth it if you can afford it), or have to stick to a tight budget.
Whatever your circumstances, I’m happy to help. Get in touch with any questions about my editing services, or to talk about what we can do within your budget.
(This post began as part of my A-Z of Writing Struggles series)