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Thread: Just finished the first draft of my first novel. Now what?

  1. #26
    Power to the pen! Taylor Harbin's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2013
    Echoing the others when I say congrats! Most people who say they want to write will never produce a complete draft. Personally, I have to let it sit longer than just a few weeks. My memory is so good that I have to make an effort to forget the words I've written, which helps me look at everything with a logical, ruthless eye.
    Check out my published work here!

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  2. #27
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin GrafOrlok's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2017
    Perth, WA
    Congrats ambmae. Its a great feeling. I recently finished mine after 3 years, took a month off, then got into editing. Dont you kind of wish there were some fireworks or people to pat you on the back!

    Quote Originally Posted by Yzjdriel View Post

    The first thing I do is go over the whole work and fix only grammar and syntax errors that my brain auto-corrected when reading it as I wrote.
    Bless you for saying this. I started this way and most say to do this last. I was beginning to panic. But I write quickly and things sometimes dont make sense - I needed to sort this first.
    That is not dead which can eternal lie,
    And with strange aeons even death may die.

  3. #28
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin abbyapplejack's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2015
    Wonderland, chasing rabbits and time
    Quote Originally Posted by MadAlice View Post
    Some say editing is the hardest part, but some say just getting that first draft of the first book out is super hard!
    It's definitely the initial draft that is the hardest for me. I'd say it took me about 5 years to finish my first draft as well (and that doesn't count the years I spent rewriting and changing the story idea before settling on something concrete). So congrats for making it!

    Quote Originally Posted by ambmae View Post
    How do I go about this editing process?
    I definitely recommend spending some time away from it, like the majority of us have already suggested. How long that would be depends entirely on you. For me, I recommend a month minimum. There's something refreshing about returning to your manuscript after quite some time, it gives you a newness you can't get from constant eyes. I would also strongly recommend a physical copy, also suggested, once you are ready to edit. I finished my book as a creative thesis project and got it printed via, so it looked like a published book. Since then, that's just the way I get a physical copy and it works for me. Try the different methods you've gotten here so far and see what works. I actually find the editing process fun the more I learn.


  4. #29
    I write CathleenT's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2014
    Northern California
    Learning to edit is the real trick. I learned mostly here in Share Your Work.

    I'd stuff the novel away for a few months and go on a short story writing spree. Write a dozen short stories in a related area (if your book is fantasy, write fantasy, etc.). Short stories are easy to get critiques on. Critique everything that comes across the boards while you're doing this, and don't forget QLH. That place is like a whole course on story.

    If you're like most writers, you'll need to see the mistakes in others' work before you can see it in your own. I learned as much from the critiques I gave as I did from those I received. Probably more.

    Then, when you've grown as a writer and know some good, ruthless beta readers from your time in SYW, pull your work out and edit it again. Trade with your beta friends. Study story structure and use that knowledge to inform your revision.

    I've used this cycle three times, and I'm just barely getting to where I think my work may stand the test of reader scrutiny. Your growth curve will vary from mine because we're different people. But it's a place to start. Hope this helps.

    Website/blog: The Beauty of Words
    Twitter: @CathleenTowns

  5. #30
    practical experience, FTW
    Join Date
    Mar 2016

    I am no expert, but I say take a break for a week or two.
    And since you have some plot issues, the first thing I would do is speed read the entire work and make general notes in the margins.
    You will most likely find plot holes, issues with structure, etc.
    Editing is where the real work begins, and it may take longer than writing.

    My 1st novel took 1.5 months to write the first draft and 10 months working almost every day all day to edit, and it still wasn't good enough. So I re-wrote and re-edited over 3 months, and it's still not there. Much better though. I would estimate that I have edited it 40-50 times. I have lost count.

    At one time I had several chapters so jumpy and out of whack that I went Trumbo on it, printed them out, cut apart sections, taped them together in the order I wanted into one long sheet 8 feet long, then cut them up again and scanned it all. I moved a lot of sections around 2 to 1, 3 to 2, etc. It was a real mess before I did that.

    I read a while back where someone said to edit your first then move on since your 2nd or 3rd book will be most likely be much better. Cant remember where I read it.

    For my 2nd book, I decided to write a Novella, seven chapters, 35k words, and as an experiment, I wanted to see if I could write a chapter a day, and I did.

    So in a week I had a first draft and was brain burnt.

    The first draft of this one was much more focused than my 1st, and I am sure the 3rd will be better still.

    On this 2nd novella, I am on the 5th week of editing, and it's getting close. I probably need 2-3 more weeks.

    Now looking back in retrospect, I am not sure if its worth my time right now to go back and try to improve my first book or whether my time would be better spent moving on to my third.

    I think it was Hemingway that said he had never written anything that was edited less than thirty times. Donna Tartt takes 10 years to write a book. Cormac McCarthy also takes many years, and I would imagine most of that is in editing and re-writing.

    In an interview, Donna Tartt stated in one of her books, she threw out 80k words, because it wasn't working.

    I will add that if you are trying to save something that is not working, it may be time to rethink, IE don't be afraid to cut the snot out of it.

    And backup a lot.

    Still, the best thing is that you finished your first draft, an accomplishment that cannot be taken lightly.


  6. #31
    figuring it all out
    Join Date
    Dec 2014
    I know it's been awhile, but I just wanted to thank everyone again for their awesome advice! I just finished my last edits (I think) this morning and the suggestions everyone gave were awesome. I ended up waiting a month to start editing, then I had family members beta, before asking a 14-year-old bookworm who lives on the other side of the country to do my final beta reading. Seriously, so glad I did. Teenagers are insightful! Thanks again. Now... off to craft a query letter!

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