When you finish writing your book, it’s only the beginning of a lot more work. In this post, we look at the final draft and rewriting.
A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about 5 Things That Happen After You’ve Typed THE END, and since then I’ve received many questions about all the steps and processes. I thought it may be worthwhile to explore each step in a little more detail.
You’ve typed THE END, now what?
Step 1 | The Final Draft And Rewriting
After you have finished your first draft your work is far from done. The number of rewrites you need to do is impossible to predict. It depends on your experience, the story and your preference for plotting or pantsing. There is no magic number, but let’s break down the process.
1. The Wait
I mentioned previously, that you should allow yourself some time between finishing the draft and starting the rewrite. The goal is to evaluate the work with ‘fresh(er) eyes’. I suggest setting some kind of deadline. Decide if you need two weeks, or six, or twelve. Write down the date and stick to it.
2. The Save
Once the wait is over, save a new version of your document. Do not keep making changes to the same document. You might need to go back to an earlier version. Try to create a system. Draft2.doc followed by Draft3.doc, for example or you risk ending up with final.final.final.FINAL-FINAL.doc.
3. The Read
Once you have a new document, you will start by rereading your manuscript. I use the comments function in Word or Google Docs to make notes for myself. If I print it out, I scribble all over the margins and underline sentences and make notes everywhere. That works well, but I have bad handwriting and struggle to read my notes later. I find myself using electronic documents more and more.
4. The Split
At this point I split my evaluation into two parts. The writing and the story. There is a lot of overlap between the two, but it helps me.
When I evaluate the writing, I find and fix typos. I evaluate the story by revisiting the theory and considering the story elements.
- I check the inciting moment, the characters, scenes, story goals, and setting.
- I evaluate the viewpoint and the viewpoint characters I chose for each scene. Viewpoint is about pronouns, but also about character.
- I double check tense and pace. Pace is influenced by my scenes, but also by the length of my sentences and word choice and descriptions.
- I use Readability Statistics to double check my use of passive voice. I find the unnecessary words. I evaluate adjectives and adverbs. The mechanics will play a part here.
- Are you sticking to genre?
- Have you considered submission guidelines?
- What is your word count doing?
This becomes easier the more experienced you are. You will learn what your strengths and weaknesses are. Create your own checklist. This list is a great starting point.
Tip: Don’t read halfway. Finish the whole story before you start rewriting.
5. The Reread
It depends on how comfortable you are with any changes you want to make. You might have to read it again if they are very big changes or if you have not figured something out yet.
6. The Rewrite
Remember to save a new version of the document. Make the necessary changes.
7. The Next Rewrite
Repeat the process as many times as needed.
The Last Word
I wish there was a shortcut or a magic list or number, but this is the hard part. This is the part that separates the writers from the dreamers. The enthusiasm is gone and only the work is left, but this process is a huge step towards finishing and publishing your novel.
In the next post in this series we will look at appraisals and discover why they are an important part of the novel writing process.
by Mia Botha
Buy Mia’s book on how to write short stories: Write the crap out of it and other short story writing advice
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