Updated: Jun 19, 2018
Alrighty...if you've made it to the stage where you've finished that very first draft of your book, the first thing you should do is celebrate. After all, many people start writing books, but few finish them. Take a guess...how many get to write "THE END?" A (beyond) pathetic 3 percent. That's it, folks. For those of you not so great at mathematics, for every 100 writers who begin writing a book, only three of them will stick it out to the end. That's more sad than the face your puppy makes when you tell him you're all out of bacon.
Even if you haven't managed to get this far in the writing process, you don't want to be in that 97% who dreamed, planned, and actually wrote something...only to never get it finished. I've known a number of authors with this problem. Their work is fantastic, like, good enough for me to be jealous even. And yet...they haven't finished the manuscript that they sweated and swore over and threw across the room for half a decade. They bled for their work, which will remain unseen forever unless they re-commit themselves to their craft. Don't be like these authors. For some tips on how to get the keyboard clicking by starting and finishing your manuscript, please see my other posts in this series:
How to Write a Book Part 1-Blogging, Websites, and Writing Groups:
How to Write a Book Part 2-The Idea, the Outline, and that First Draft:
And now...the moment you've been waiting for: just kidding. Unless you're waiting for Publisher's Clearing House to knock at your front door with that multi-million dollar check and a camera crew, there isn't a whole lot in life that's worth waiting for. Fortunately, waiting for your book to marinate is one of them. Yes, I said marinate. That's the term I use to describe that time period in which your book is in hibernation. Basically, it's saved to a file and put away where no eyes, not even yours, can look at it for three months.
Three months?! What are you supposed to be doing in that time?
And no, it's not this:
Your book needs time to rest before it gets another dose of your brain.
This is your book:
This is your book without rest:
Reasons Your Book Needs the Time to Marinate
1. Your brain needs a break from the mental hell you just put it through. Writing a book is an exhilarating boxing match for the human brain, draining and energizing in equal measure. It was fun. It was tough. It nearly made you swear off writing forever and do crocheting as your hobby. But you survived, and now you need a break. Your mind will be in a much better rested state for the grueling task of editing if you've had time to let the dust settle.
2. This is a good time to brush up on your marketing skills and habits...you know...all those things you didn't do because you were so busy finishing that first draft. Think about how you can balance marketing time and writing time, because you will need to make room for both of these eventually.
3. By the end of Marination Mode, you will have had time to "forget" a lot of what you wrote. Everyone knows that fresh eyes make the best editors (unless you really suck at grammar------then you're doomed), so the more fresh your work looks to you, the more the mistakes will stand out.
THE MARKETING----SOME QUICK TIPS
1. Pad your email list. Invite people to subscribe to your website.
2. Write high-quality articles to not only keep your pen in shape, but to attract email subscribers. Don't forget easy-to-find links, because people want everything at their fingertips these days, even online.
3. Update your website. Fix any outdated information, add new pages, photos, and videos. Keep it looking new and fresh to your current subscribers.
4. Make time for social media. Tweet on Twitter. Show your face on Facebook. Instigate on Instagram. If your cat has a blog, make her do a few posts. By the way, my cat does have a blog, which you can follow here if you feel the inclination:
See how I posted that link right here for your convenience? And for heaven's sake, get back in the loop with your writing groups. Now that you've actually finished writing a book, you might be able to inspire your fellow authors to do the same by announcing the completion of your first draft!
There are countless marketing tips out there that I haven't even mentioned. Since it's all too easy to get overwhelmed, it's sometimes best to start with the basics I've provided. After all, I used to be just as clueless about marketing as my mother-in-law was about family boundaries, but we are all teachable. I've certainly learned a lot on my own, and I'm happy to share it with you. One of the most important things I've learned about marketing is: Sell yourself, not your work. Yes, I know that sounds counter-productive (not to mention a bit provocative), but what that means in laymen's terms is: If people like you, they will buy anything you have for sale, sometimes whether or not it is something they will actually use. You will get much farther by making yourself into a likeable, approachable internet personality, versus the annoying author that keeps Tweeting, "Buy my book! Buy my book!" That author is more likely to get their book shoved down their throat. Now, I'm not saying you should never promote your work. What I am saying is that you should not become a spammer.
Now it's time to get down to the nitty-gritty: producing the second draft.
TURNING DRAFT 1 INTO DRAFT 2
This is the part where I'd ordinarily say, "Cue the Jaws theme music," but I'm sure you have your own musical version of what Hell sounds like. I'll guide you through the steps on how to get that horrible first draft transformed into something people will actually want to read. I'm not kidding----first drafts are always crap------I'm going to be honest with your right here and now. I don't care who you are or how many books you've written. The first draft will always be a big pile of brain vomit that will be in great need of organization, grammar fixes, and some plot tweaking (and in some cases, overhauling). But when all that is done, you'll end up with something rather beautiful, and getting there isn't so hard when you have a plan. Fortunately for you, I DO have a plan. Follow my steps below, and you'll be finishing that second draft before the next bad Star Wars movie installment can be fed to the public to milk them for more cash.
THE SECOND DRAFT IN 10 STEPS
1. Ensure that three months have passed since you even looked at your book. If they haven't, get your butt back to marketing! Not your actual butt.
2. Print out your manuscript. It's tempting to edit on a computer screen, but DON'T. You're not ready for that step yet. Stay with me now. You can do this. Just breathe.
3. Place Chapter 1 into a folder or binder with some blank notebook paper and a few pens. You now have everything you need to keep the pages organized, scribble some notes, make additions, etc. The reasoning behind this chapter segregation method is to break up the revising process into small chunks that become small goals. Little goals are easier to complete than big goals, as we all know. You are much more likely to want to edit a pile of 10-20 pages than the entire manuscript in one go. They are also much lighter to carry.
4. Read Chapter 1 all the way through, without fixing mistakes, editing, or making additions. This will give you an idea of how it flows, as well not interrupt your reading process. Pretend that you are a reader, not the author. Are you enjoying what you're reading?
5. On another day, re-read Chapter 1. This time, wield that pen and use it to indicate anything that needs to be changed, questioned, eliminated, researched, revised, or added. If you need to add an entire paragraph between two others, write the new paragraph on the notebook paper and indicate the page number it needs to go on, as well as what paragraph it comes after.
6. Chapter Checklist:
-does the chapter have its "hook" at the beginning?
-does it have a beginning, middle, climax, and ending?
-do scenes transition smoothly?
-does the dialogue sound natural, or forced?
-eliminate unnecessary characters, scenes, dialogue, or anything else that dams the flow of the events.
-are all grammatical errors fixed, or at least noted for further fact-checking/research?
7. Go into your computer file for Chapter 1 and implement all the changes you've made. Don't forget to save it in a new file with the words "draft 2" in there somewhere for clarity between file names. Throw away the mangled physical copy of Chapter 1, as you no longer need it. Print out the second draft of the no-longer-crap first chapter and keep it in your binder to use as reference, or your 'canon,' so to speak, making sure that it's clearly labelled as the second draft.
8. Pat yourself on the back for cleaning up an entire chapter! Now that you're familiar with the method, you can tackle Chapter 2 with confidence.
9. Repeat the above process for the remaining chapters of your book.
10. CELEBRATE!!! YOU HAVE COMPLETED DRAFT 2!!!
Some Useful Tips to Keep You From Losing Your Mind While Editing
-Try to set the goal of editing two chapters per month, and BE CONSISTENT. Even better-----one chapter per week. You want to keep the information fresh in your mind so you won't have to keep flipping through endless pages trying to remember what you edited six months ago.
-Realize that this WILL get easier the more often you do it. I ought to know-----I've been writing for 22 years.
-Don't be hard on yourself. You wrote a frickin' BOOK, for cryin' out loud. Do you know just how huge an accomplishment that is?!!!! Some people can't even commit to writing a one-page letter. You, on the other hand, just emptied an enormous chunk of your mind onto your computer screen.
-Even editing a few sentences a day with your morning coffee will add up to entire chapters over time. Don't believe me? How else do you think I found the time to edit For Her Courage, The Ruffian Redeemer, and Estrogen at Your Own Risk? I have a life just like everyone else. I work 50 hours a week, have a family, and plenty of other keen interests besides the marvels of pen and paper.
I realize that all writers have different ways of producing their creative work. My guidelines are simply ideas to help you get started and achieve your current writing goals. While I hope you will gain a lot of insight from my articles, it's even more important that you develop your own skills and ideas for creative writing. We all have to use the methods that work best for us as individuals. What works for me may not work for you, and that's perfectly fine. I'm sure that many of you have incredible shortcuts and tips that I haven't thought of. I'd really like to hear about them in the comments, and I'm certain that other writers would like to read them too. Please feel free to share this article with other authors you know-----it could be the one thing keeping them from finishing that book!
On a final note...
If you have questions, I will answer them. I am here to help you, because I was in your place once, and it was a tougher road than a winding hill during a blizzard with bald tires. Some days, I made myself put in the extra effort and traversed a few miles. Other days, it was just a few feet. But I kept going down the path, and I eventually got somewhere. So will you.
Keep checking back for How to Write a Book Part 4: Beta Readers and the Third Draft