After the First Draft, What’s Next?

You’ve finished the first draft, what do you do now? Revise? Publish?

Of all the skills I had to learn about writing, this was the hardest. Revision takes patience, persistence and it requires objectivity. It also requires dealing with well-meaning friends and relatives and their enthusiasm for you. “You’ve written a book! That’s great! When will it be published? When can I buy it?”

Try explaining that the first draft is really just an in-depth outline which needs work and refinement. They don’t get it. Unfortunately, many writers don’t either. That’s a concern with self-published books. Most authors take the time to revise and perfect their manuscripts, but those who don’t have hurt the industry’s reputation.

The trouble is that revision is a hard thing to explain because many writers don’t understand the process or exactly what needs to happen. It’s more than just line by line revision, as we’ll come to learn in this month’s blogs. It’s about story structure and making certain scenes are doing their work. It’s about getting feedback from beta readers and perhaps even editors. We’ll hear from an acquisitions editor for a magazine and a freelance editor about what revision means to them.

We’ll even hear from a pantser about how she approaches revising her novels. This month’s blogs will also tell us HOW to revise. That’s what I had the most trouble with when I first started out, was knowing how to approach revision and what I needed to do.

The issue is this: we have lived, dreamed and scribed the story. We know the characters, the setting and the plot well. We know it so well, that we’re not aware of gaps, pitfalls, inconsistencies, clunky writing, too much telling, and not enough showing. But this creation is our baby and giving it time away from us so that others may applaud and criticize our efforts is a nerve wracking process.  Yet, it is so very necessary for if we don’t address the problems one of two things will happen: readers will either ignore us and never become fans, or the reviews will be so bad that no matter what we write again, it will not be read. And should that reader be an acquisitions editor – well, we don’t want our names to end up in the amateur, do not read pile. On all counts, that is a disaster because we writers desire to entertain through our marvelous creations of character, world, and plot.

My dear fellow writers, I have learned that the first draft is but a mere outline of the story. It begs to be revised time and time again until it becomes its best and perfect self. For it is in the perfection of creation that readers marvel. However, revision can be a joyful and creative process. But first, we must all learn the process, and that’s our goal for April!

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