So you finished your novel. Congratulations!
If you’re like me, the first thing you’ll do is celebrate, maybe even all by yourself. Last week, for instance, I reached the end of my current manuscript and washed slices of my favorite pizza down with a couple of glasses of Prosecco because my husband was working late and I was in a coma.
However, whether you’re pursuing a traditional publishing deal or self publishing, there’s a long way to go before your book appears in stores or even on Amazon. Here’s what might happen next:
Make Time for Beta Readers
My husband is a software engineer; when he finishes writing a bunch of new code, it’s in the “beta phase,” also known as Betaware. Likewise, once you complete the entire first draft of your book, you’re only at the end of the development phase. Now it’s time to collect your Beta readers. These people aren’t necessarily critique partners in your workshop (though they can be), but should be astute readers eager and willing to point out things like plot holes and inconsistent points of view.
The Magic Is in the Revision
Even though you have already written three, five or even eleven drafts (yeah, I like prime numbers), trust me: your Beta readers will come back with insights and critiques that will make you feel like an idiot. That’s okay. The magic is in the revision. And, if you’re lucky, a few months will have elapsed, so that you can look at your project with fresh eyes as you dig into the revision.
Want Good Dialogue? Don’t Just Read It. Speak It.
You will smooth out a lot of rough/silly/unnecessary dialogue if you read it aloud. Better yet, have someone read it with you, so that you can “hear” the conversations.
Ready, Set, Proofread!
By revision three, five, or eleven, depending on your patience and/or contract deadline, you will be pretty dang sick of this book. Yet, there is one more important step to take before sending it out to an agent, an editor, or whatever service you’re using to self publish: proofread it! You can hire a typo hunter or copy editor for this pesky job. Or, if you’re set on doing it yourself, print out the entire book—yes, PRINT IT OUT—and read it carefully for errors during that final polish. You’ll be astounded by what you catch.
Have a Distraction Handy
Once your book is finally off to the agent or editor for professional feedback, there isn’t a lot you can—or should—do. This book will still come back for revisions. It might even be rejected. Either way, you need a distraction. Arrange a vacation, weed your garden, shop for a new car, clean your closets, whatever. Your book is still going to come back needing another rewrite (or seven), so prepare for that by clearing your head—after you have another celebration!