(Also, some vacation pics next week!)
So, as my news announcement a while back said, I finished the first draft of my book, Sun’s Guard: Ten. Now, every writer has a different process for their editing, for how they get the book read to go out to query, and even how they go about getting a query list started. Here is a look into mine as an example. Do you have to follow it? Hell no. But it can be a beginning guide if you are looking at your finished draft going, “Now what do I do?”
Step 1: Walk Away
I know, this sounds insane. But it really does help. Take some time away from your first draft, celebrate the fact you finished it! I somewhat deliberately lined mine up with some major holidays and a big vacation that has been planned for months. And honestly, I didn’t even write much (as my absence on this blog can testify), whether it’s blogging, fanfic, or even RP. Around the holidays, I managed to write some RP/Fanfic for presents (because I’m poor like that), but I firmly kept my mind off my book as much as possible.
I read books, I watched movies, I played video games, I sewed, I panicked when I couldn’t find fabric for my medfair costume… It’s a way of recharging your mental batteries for the work that’s coming up, and reconnecting with the life that you admittedly put on the shelf to finish that last bit of your draft.
Step 2: Rewrite/Additions
This is where you do a reread of your draft and go, “What doesn’t make sense? What scene doesn’t go anywhere or just reveals repetitive information? Where does the dialogue sound completely stilted?” Depending on how clunky things feel, you have to add sections or move them around. You might find huge plot holes and have to do some moving around or slashing huge sections and rewriting. Don’t fuss about grammar, typos, or paragraph structure too much at this point. You are looking at your story and making sure it is as tight as possible. Why? Well…
Step 3: Get a beta (or two)
Now you are about to let your work leave your own, dragon-like hoarding hands, and pass it off to someone else, or two someone else’s, depending on your paranoia level. This isn’t your mom or whoever, a person who will tell you it’s great no matter who it is. This is your best friend, this is the person who is going to call you to the carpet if you do something stupid or don’t have a good reason for something obvious not happening. Ideally, this is a person who reads a lot or watches a lot of movies, either works. These people know how to spot the flaws in story and world building, with or without a fancy degree. But this is also someone you trust not to steal your work, so don’t give it to some stranger off the street either unless they have a spotless reputation.
They aren’t as close to your characters, so they will call someone out as a jerk who isn’t likable, which could be a good or a bad thing depending on who the character is in the long run. They will ask questions, important questions, that you need to either answer or at least figure out for yourself. If they can’t remember your character’s physical appearance, you need to make sure they are more memorable. If they can’t tell you the character’s main goal, you’re plot has gotten muddled. This is your litmus test.
Why involve a second reader? Well, this is if you aren’t sure the story is suiting for whoever your target audience is. For example, I write young adult fantasy. Ginny is not a YA person. She can tell me if the story is good, if it works, if it sounds like a teenager. But she can’t tell me if it’s going to click with YA readers because she doesn’t know what they read for. So your options are giving it to someone who does read it, or someone in your target audience and confirming if it works like you are hoping it does.
Step 4: Be thinking on your next project.
I don’t mean the sequel to your current book (pro tip from my professors: never get too far ahead of your book counts in a series before you have an agent, they won’t pick you up). I mean take a break from this world/characters, and be thinking on what you want to do next. In my case, I am going to work on something very strange for me, an unrealistic realistic fiction type thing. I’m fleshing out characters in my head, getting a very rough idea of the story. But beyond making notes while waiting on Ginny, I haven’t started plotting yet or writing.
Why? Because getting to work on this story is my reward for finishing Sun’s Guard: Ten. To earn that reward, I have to finish the rest of the steps, at least until the last one. It’s fuel to keep you going, since this is all the hard work part where you just want to be done already.
Step 5: Rewrite/Additions (Part 2)
Now that you have beta feedback, you need to apply it to your draft. This hopefully won’t include as much hacking and adding as the first time around, but it very well could depending on what your beta found. You could also be adjusting elements to make it suite your target audience better, if it was found that you were too mature or too young for what you were aiming for, or completely alienating. If you haven’t already, also look at your first page. That’s the first thing a reader sees after the summary, so make sure there is something there to catch their attention.
(In my case of beta found things, it’s trying to figure out how to apply character tags without offending anybody by comparing skin or eye color to a particular food, which is the first thing that crossed my mind when I think of this color, but I want to be respectful, and just…sigh… And then making sure there is enough emotional impact at the end.)
Step 6: The Nitty-Gritty
This is the part where I have to print out a copy of the draft. My eye skims over spelling errors online. Yep, that dreaded time. Line-editing.
Not only are you looking at your spelling and general grammar, you are also watching your stimulus/response reactions to make sure that everything is included there. There is also a specific order to how a character is supposed to react. These last two are the ones that fanfiction has ruined me for, and I have no inner sense of how things are supposed to go anymore. So I have to sit there and manually review the whole thing for these itty bitty details.
Step 7: QUERY!
This step is sort of its own huge process that I will do a sequel post about, but at this point, you’ve hit the end of what you can do on your own. You now need someone in the industry to tell you what parts of your story need fleshing out, if this plot line doesn’t work, and if something is inappropriate or plain clunky. This person is going to be your agent–publishers do not accept blind requests, and editors are becoming a thing of the past except for very basic line editing.
Most agents, however, are retired editors from the days where you actually had an editor to work on your story after you sold it. Finding an agent is like finding a spouse: time consuming, ridiculous in the processes needed, and things still might not work out. Many agents aren’t even accepting new works right now, making things especially difficult.
I am currently at Step 5, technically (I just got my stuff back). Ginny found most of my issues, now I need to poke at them this week before I start my line-editing process. I got delayed several times due to personal drama and illness, but I haven’t given up yet. Soon I’ll be looking for an agent, and if that doesn’t work… Well, I’ll self publish this one too and you’ll having something to look forward to!