If there’s a single phrase that can describe a writer’s passion when working on the first draft, it would be inspired by Churchill’s words: “blood, toil, tears, and sweat.” Writing can be a torturous process. You have great ideas in your head, but the fact that you can’t capture them all on paper is devastating. Those are some of the joys a writer has. Yes, they are joys, because without those struggles your day at work would be as boring as hell.
Once the first draft is ready, it seems like all that excitement has gone away. New writers are always confused about what happens after. Do they get an editor at this point? Do they ask for other writers’ opinions? Do they edit and proofread without getting any help? Those questions are enough to make you lose your mind, and we don’t want that to happen. Let’s get into details, shall we?
The following tips will help you master the journey from rough draft to publication.
If you see a draft of any book that has already been published and you compare the two versions, you’ll understand: the first draft is the bare bones, and it’s not even close to the finished work. Authors spend a lot of time rewriting the first draft until they achieve a form that’s ready to be forwarded to the editor.
You might be intimidated by the redrafting process. It took a lot of effort for you to write the entire story, and now you have to change parts of it. That’s not the right approach to have. If you think about it, redrafting is even more exciting than the initial process of writing. Here is a simple way to organize it:
- Read it from a reader’s viewpoint.
Before you do the first reading, give yourself some time away from the draft. This will be a hard thing to do, since the book will keep calling out to you. You need to resist the temptation to go from draft to publication as soon as possible, though. Take at least three days to watch movies, exercise, spend time with your partner or friends, take walks, and do whatever else that’s not related to your work.
Then, read your first draft and take notes while you’re at it. Think about the way a reader would approach it. What remarks would they have? You can take the notes in any form, but we suggest writing on the margins of the printed draft. Mark the scenes that need more work, the gaps you need to fill in, the inconsistencies in the plot, scenes and characters, and every other issue you notice.
- Rewrite the draft
Now you’ll need to make a major rewrite. You don’t have to write the entire content from scratch; just edit it in the word processor you initially used. Use the print with notes as your guidance, start reading the entire thing in its electronic version, and make the edits along the way.
You’re not done yet. Print out the second draft, and repeat the process. You might have more ideas and you’ll surely notice more flaws with each new reading. Don’t forget to give yourself some time away from the work before beginning a new cycle of redrafting.
You can’t do this forever. If you notice that you’re going back to old versions of the same sentence and then changing your mind again, you’re done. You’ll know when all major edits are covered; the draft will seem much more coherent and harmonious. It will almost look like a book.
2. Do the Structural Edit
Structural (sometimes called substantive or developmental) editing is as complex as it sounds. It’s a very time-consuming process and it’s expensive for publishers. That’s why they don’t like taking on drafts that need structural editing. If you want to boost your chances of getting published, you’ll need to do this work on your own, or hire an affordable editing service to do that for you. If you’re willing to give it a go, these are the main aspects of the structure you’ll need to improve:
- The plot
Ask yourself: does it make the reader feel trapped inside a believable and logical story? What emotions does it evoke?
Are they complex enough? Are they too complex? Do all actions fit their personality? Can the reader understand their personality?
Is your point of view clear and believable, or will the reader be left in confusion after finishing your book? Is the message unique and memorable?
Is the rhythm of the plot moving forward at an acceptable pace? It shouldn’t be confusingly fast, but you should make sure it’s not boring, either. Pay attention to the narrative flow; it shouldn’t be interrupted by gaps.
They have to sound real. Each line should be consistent with the character’s personality, and it must be relevant to the plot. Get rid of all useless lines and filler dialogues.
3. Proofread it in print
What, you thought you were done? Don’t worry; we’re almost there. Now that you’re done with the major part of the editing work, it’s time to print out the latest draft again, and read it very diligently. Instead of paying attention to the meaning, now you’re going to focus on form. Pay attention to each word and sentence.
This is not the time to be relying on proofreading software, since it can’t be perfect in correcting all typos and grammar errors. Proofread between 10 and 20 pages in a day. Too little proofreading per day is not fast enough, but too much will make you unfocused.
Once you make the corrections in the printed version, get back to the electronic form of the document and update it. The change of format is necessary because you’re already too used to the appearance of the document in electronic form. When you get the print in your hands, your eye is more focused and efficient in spotting flaws.
4. Read it out loud
Finally, it’s time to do something silly. Read the final version out loud, but make sure you’re alone in the room while doing it. This technique allows you to understand the message from a reader’s point of view. Change voices, make gestures, and do whatever else you need to do to make yourself sound believable.
If you get any ideas for improvements, now is your last chance to make them. Update the document with the final corrections and move onto the final step.
5. Get an editor
Wait, what? You were doing all this work just to get a cleaner version for someone else to edit? Exactly! You can submit your final draft as a suggestion to publishers. However, you can do something even better: get it polished out by a professional editor, who knows exactly what publishers want to see.
The final improvements the editor makes will not affect the plot, voice, and message in any way. They will just make the book more enjoyable to read.
The Journey from Rough Draft to Publication Is Easier than It Seems
Some things in life are easier to do than to explain, and this is one of them. When you read about the way this whole process should look like, it seems extremely challenging. As soon as you make the first step, though, you will be unstoppable until you have a clean version in your hands. At this point, you can be proud. You should be!
Stephanie Norman – professional writer with wide experience in the field of education, writing and blogging. It gives her the opportunity to help people to find out some useful and necessary things and apply them correctly in different spheres of life. Also, she writes as a freelancer in Australian Writings, a writing g service for students. You can follow her on Facebook and Google+.