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What To Do After Writing Your First Draft

Emerging and experienced writers take note! Here is what to do after writing your first draft. You thought it was “write and then done”? No, my friends. There is still work to do and boxes to check after you have written your first full draft. These are the next steps on your route to being traditionally published.

Books covers with text: What to do after writing your first draft.

Re-read the Draft

Even though you’ve read it a million times you must read it again. Typos, punctuation mishaps, and grammar issues happen to the best of us. While you are proofreading, have a look at your line editing, flow, and story arc. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Does the story have a well formed story arc?

  • Do characters face challenges? Do you develop over the course of the story?

  • Does the dialogue move the story forward?

  • Is there info-dumping?

  • Does every sentence work?

  • Are words or phrases repeated unnecessarily?

Fix the Issues

Once you’ve realized that you don’t have a clean first draft (no one ever has a clean first draft after first pass) make the fixes for any issues you noticed while re-reading. This might mean writing new scenes, deleting old ones, or moving things around.

Find a Beta Reader or Critique Partner

Getting feedback from a reader who has fresh eyes for the manuscript is very valuable to writers. Find beta readers or a critique partner via writer’s groups, friends and family, or professional writing organizations. Start off by asking the potential beta reader if they would like to read the manuscript (first you extend the invitation and then, if they say yes, you send the manuscript). Don’t expect feedback straight away because everyone has busy lives. But you certainly can give a time range like “I’d love to get your feedback in the next three months” so that expectations are clear. You can be clear in your communication by asking for general or specific feedback. For specific feedback, you could ask questions like:

  • What three things did you like about the story?

  • What three things did you dislike about the story?

  • Was there a character you loved? Why did you love them?

  • Was there a character you didn’t like? Why didn’t you like them?

  • Did the plot twist work for you?

  • Did the chapters flow well?

  • Did anything stand out as a red flag?

Remember, that feedback is subjective. Writers do need to have a thick skin when it comes to feedback. Though we would all like to write a perfect first draft please remember first drafts are never perfect. There is always room for improvement. When you get the feedback. Sit with it for a few days. Let the information settle in before you go back to the drawing board.

Research The Market

As you continue working on your manuscript, you can consider how to add value to your story so that it's more interesting to publishers or book sellers by researching the market. This doesn’t mean adding fairy characters in your historical fiction book (I know, young adult fairy books are all the rage right now). You have to stay true to your story.

Here are a few situations where you might want to add-value or detail to your first draft:

  • If your story doesn’t have a mix of characters of different backgrounds and abilities, consider adding diversity (make sure to do your research)If emotions or motivation aren’t clear, consider adding in empathy and feelings markers to your characters

  • If your middle-grade book could be used in classrooms, consider creating clear curriculum-tie ins

  • If your young adult story is a bit slow, increase action

Keep Revising

Once you have done all of the above, you may have a solid second draft or at least be on your way to one. You can repeat re-reading, getting feedback, and revising until you have a polished manuscript. Many manuscripts go through multiple drafts, so remember every fix makes it a better story!

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