Congratulations! You’ve written a lot of words in a short amount of time that is a great first draft!

I know, I know. You’ve heard first drafts are supposedly crap. They should never be seen by anyone, ever, and they’re just garbage. A stream of consciousness that you’re probably going to re-write at least five more times before you’re happy with it.

Yeah, that’s kind of true. But you’ve done something that so many people set out to do but don’t: you wrote a book. And you wrote this book for you. That’s what the first draft is: the author’s chance to get to know the story, the characters, the backstory that brought the characters to where they are today. They get to know the setting, the main character, and the voice of the novel. The first draft is supposed to be a mess. No one writes a book that doesn’t need editing.

But what do you do now that you’ve finished writing a book?

  1. Let it sit. Trust me on this one. Giving yourself some distance between you and your manuscript will make a world of difference when you get back to editing.
  2. Look, don’t touch. Read your manuscript but don’t touch it. You can make notes on things that occur to you as you’re reading, but enjoy the process of reading what you’ve created.
  3. Edit! Take the notes that you’ve written and use them to help you do a round of editing. And take your time with this! This isn’t a race.
  4. Find critique partners. Having writing friends who will critique your book is a seriously undervalued commodity. Reading someone’s manuscript and giving feedback takes a lot of time, so be sure to give your critique partner a lot of love! And by love, I mean take the time to read and give notes on their manuscript in return. Don’t think you have time to do a critique swap? Jump to #5. If you do have time, take the other person’s notes and go through another round of editing.
  5. Find an editor. Getting fresh eyes on your manuscript is important. Freelance editors are an amazing resource that you should take advantage of! But do your research before you book one. Make sure your editor has experience, previous clients you can talk to, and understands what the publishing industry is looking for in the genre that you’re writing.

As an author, I know how hard it is to look at your manuscript and think that there’s nothing more that can possibly be done–that it’s ready for querying or submitting despite a low word count, or unfinished character arcs, or plot holes. I know the thrill of being able to say “I wrote a book!” and the disappointment that comes with rejection after rejection when you’re trying to query your NaNoWriMo novel in January.

Now is not the time to think about querying, writer. Now is the time to breathe. Regroup.

Then, get back to work.


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