So You Finished Writing a Book, Now What?

So, you’ve finished writing that book.

Whether it’s a novel, a novella, or a saga with multiple books, it’s still an accomplishment, and you deserve to sit back and treat yourself to something nice. (I personally tend to celebrate by buying a new book, eating chocolate, or getting myself a caramel frappé).

However, you may be wondering, now that you’ve reached this finished line, what to do next. Whether you publish this book, how to find editors, whether to query for traditional publishing or self-publish, all the questions that come after finishing a book.

Well, I don’t have every single answer, but I have a great many of them, and I am excited to dig in and talk all about what happens in the writing/publishing process once a first draft is completed. And the first post in this new “series” is all about what to do after finishing that first draft.

  1. Celebrate

I mean, come on, you just finished writing a book. Many people never finish the books they start writing. Take a moment to appreciate this accomplishment before moving on.

2. Take a Break

No, seriously. You’ve wrung your brain for all de werdz, it’s time to take a break and refresh your mind, refuel your creativity, and decide what you’re going to do next.

You may be wondering how long of a break this should be? Most people recommend two to four weeks away from your writing project. If you’re on a deadline, that may not be possible, but at least try to take a few days. Burnout is real and it is awful and takes a LONG time to recover from. I personally recommend whatever it takes to feel refreshed and excited about your story and your writing again. Taking breaks is so crucial, regardless if you’re returning to the same manuscript again or starting a new one. Give those little grey cells a vacation. Your creativity will thank you.

So now that you’ve taken a break, when should you return to that manuscript and what should you do about it?

The answer is edit. Now, I am wholly against the idea that self-editing your manuscript is enough for publishing. And any other professional in the field would say the same. However, you can edit your own manuscript after writing it, provided you get professionals to do the further stages. (More on that later.)

But just how do you begin editing your first draft? You can hire alpha readers, who are readers who look at your first draft and give you feedback, critiques, and suggestions, or you can start doing it yourself. (More on alpha readers in the next post.)

Here are some things I always make a priority to look for. Your self-edited draft won’t be perfect, but that’s okay. That’s why you hire editors. But it definitely saves those editors and beta-readers etc. the time to fix basic mistakes. Another thing is that the more you write and edit and work with editors, the more knowledge you’ll gain in terms of weaknesses and what to look for in your writing. Writing is an art, and you always improve as time and years of practice go by.

Things to look for during self-edits:

~ Grammar & punctuation

Granted, this is often a weakness and not necessarily a priority. But if the bigger stuff feels too overwhelming, it’s okay to start small and save a much bigger job for later on. Check for punctuation mistakes (you can always google if you have questions or check the Chicago Manual of Style!), awkward phrasing, and incorrect grammar. Another big thing that fits in this category is looking for active vs. passive voice, and showing vs. telling. Those are a bit more in-depth and I’ll cover tips for those in a later post.

~ Plot holes

Let’s be honest, they happen to everyone. Double-checking contradictory statements in your book such as a character’s hair color suddenly changing with no explanation why, or even bigger things like plot points happening (or not happening) out of the blue that don’t make sense with the rest of the book

~ Fact checking

This is especially important if you’re writing historical or even some contemporary fiction, but please double-check facts in terms of settings and characters if they actually happened in real life. You can also double-check injuries and medical stuff, making sure they’re accurate and not just made up for fun. (Turns out you can’t learn this by watching TV…)

~ Dialogue

Does your dialogue fit your setting and time period? Using incorrect lingo is something quite a few authors do and it drives me insane. If you’re writing something in a Victorian-style period, regardless if it’s steampunk fantasy or actual historical setting, you’re NOT going to have a character saying words like “okay” and “wassup”. Double-check the linguistic style and make sure it fits.

~ Character & plot arcs

This can be tricky because it’s something you’ll get better at as time goes on. Even if you’re not a detailed plotter, it can be helpful to actually write out the character and plot arcs. Seeing it on actual paper often helps clear it in your mind in regards to whether it’s logical, makes sense in the story, and is enjoyable and believable to read. While your editor will most certainly help with this, it’s a good idea to start getting used to working on these skills yourself, and that way, you won’t have to fix so much later when you’re working with your editor.

I hope all these tips help you in your writing and publishing journey! The next post will be all about the NEXT stage in getting your book ready for publishing and will cover what I call the ABC’s of critical readers: alpha readers, beta readers, and critique partners. Stay tuned!

Meanwhile, let me know if you found any of this information helpful, and if you have any suggestions or questions in the comments below!

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