Yesterday was a monumental day for me. I finally finished the second draft of my novel.
After a pile of bland, unusable bleh that was the first draft (you can see my post about first drafts here), I believe I came out of the second draft with something resembling a good story. There are chapters that are not plot filler, plot that actually has a direction, and characters that really do stuff. It’s a wonderful feeling and also one fraught with anxiety. Endless questions of what next and how can I improve it haunt me, all the time.
My WIP is better than ever, yes, but the problem is that it’s not good enough. Not good enough to be sent to an agent, not good enough to be published, not good enough to be seen by other people. So I find myself asking, what next? What can you do when you think you’ve done everything in your power to transform that iffy first draft into something more and it still feels like you’ve only climbed the first of many mountains.
Really, there’s only one thing you can do: edit, revise, and keep going.
I did some research (honestly, I’ve been doing research about revisions ever since I started outlining) and here is what I came up with.
AKA this is what I will be doing in the upcoming weeks.
So your story is done, now it’s time to read it! And while you read, you have to watch out for scenes that seem abrupt and awkward. Then you fill them in with necessary descriptions about character or plot. The trick is not to overdo it and provide only what will make your story feel richer and the scenes flow smoother.
Let’s face it, sometimes you don’t need that scene or that character, who seems to do nothing but trail your MC without rhyme or reason. If a given element is not adding anything important to your story (plot point, character development, historical background, atmosphere) then delete it.
Make Sure You Have Character Arcs
You may have heard of plot arcs but what about character arcs? They’re just as important to a story as plot arcs, if not more so. Character arcs give protagonists depth and development and readers love that! Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Boys is a perfect example of truly amazing character arcs. So is Harry Potter, for that matter. That’s why they are so satisfying to read. There’s just something thrilling about watching someone overcome obstacles and fight epic battles on their way to greatness.
Perfect the Plot Arc
Aah, we come to plot, finally. As you’re reading, make sure you’re paying careful attention to how your plot is unfurling. Important stuff needs to be happening all the time and mostly at 25%, 50%, and 75%. And I mean important stuff that steers your story in mind-boggling, new directions. Rope the readers in. If you’re losing interest or are noticing that some things are just not fitting into your plot, you better be thinking of ways to fix it. Plot holes are a big no-no. Boring plot is even worse!
Polish the Opening Chapters
This is important! Obviously. After the cover, the first couple of chapters are what make or break your book. I usually decide if I want to read a book after the second or third chapter (or whatever is shown on the preview), that should tell you something. So polish these babies up and make sure they resonate in perfect (or imperfect) harmony with the last chapter/epilogue. Tie the strings up, if not into a neat bow, then at least into a semblance of a knot. Your story will feel more put together.
Fix the Inconsistencies
Self-explanatory, I hope. You don’t want to shoot your character in the right foot in one chapter and three chapters later, say that it was her left one. This just screams: BAD WRITING! And you want it to cheer: BRAVO! BRAVO! ENCORE!
Check for FEELS
Does your story make you feel things? Can you hear the bells ringing, guns firing, hearts racing, eyes stinging? Can you? Can you? If yes, that’s marvelous, you’re doing something right. If not, you’ve got work to do, my lovely. Nobody wants to read a dry book just for the heck of it.
Make Cosmetic Edits
After you make the large-scale edits, it’s time to read over the book again, but this time in search of grammatical errors and typos. Trust me, you don’t want to skip this step. Editors may be able to help you later on in the publishing process, but you’re an author, damn it, be professional.
Send It Off to a Beta Reader (or 20)
Congratulations, you made it to this point! You’ve revised your baby and fixed all the mistakes you could find, that’s a great feat for any aspiring writer. It’s almost over, at least for a few weeks. You didn’t think that was the end of it, did ya? Now you send it off to a beta reader or twenty (the more the merrier and the feedback more accurate) and ask them for criticism. And when they give it to you, cry for an hour, drink some hot tea, and get back to work.
This is how all great ideas are born. Through your sweat and tears.
Ready, set, go.
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