The First Draft of My Novel is Done. What Now?

A few weeks ago, I announced the first draft of TGTGTDAS Book 2 was done. Since then, I’ve been barraged by questions, requests, demands, etc… And by “barraged”, I mean one person has reached out asking about my shirt size (women’s ‘smedium’).

All authors work differently. And what happens after a first draft can vary from writer to writer. Therefore, I wanted to give everyone a quick head’s up about what happens next. It will be a fun insight into the writing process! And by “fun” I mean you may just want to shoot yourself. Also, you’ll get an idea for when the novel might be released. And THAT’S the important thing.

1. The Waiting Game

Waiting for book 2

When I finish any piece of writing, I put it away for awhile. No looking at it, no touching it, no nothing. It’s basically a vial of smallpox.

Why? Because I want it to be as “new” as possible when I begin editing. As the author, I know every single twist and turn. That makes it really hard to read it as your average reader. It’s difficult to gauge if the tension/conflict/pacing are all correct because there are no surprises.

Putting the novel away helps with that; it makes the book more fresh. There have even been times I’ve forgotten certain scenes and got to read them as any other reader. It’s actually pretty cool and improves my edits.

So that begs the following question: How long do I let it stew?

Good question, imaginary person! It depends on the length of the work. For my average short story, I let it simmer for about a week. I let more lengthy works sit longer. I’ve found that a month is a good period of time. So that means book 2 is going to sit for another week and then it’s time to start working on the second draft!

2. Bring on the Second Draft

Editing book 2

After the novel’s smallpox heals, I sit down and read it. And I try to do it as quickly as possible. This isn’t the time for spell/grammar checking. Nor* is it the time to analyze things like sentence/paragraph structure. This read-through is all about plot/pacing/conflict/continuity. In other words, does the story, as a whole, work?

This read-thru also includes the emotional flow. People who know me from writers’ group know I’m huge about characters and emotions. I firmly, 10000% believe characters drive the story. Everyone has been through good/bad times. It’s how we, as individuals, react to those times that make stories unique. Therefore, I really try to analyze the emotional flow. To do this, I try to put myself in the characters’ shoes and gauge if their reactions feel genuine. Sometimes, I’ll find that a character seems to overreact hugely to something. Or that there isn’t enough buildup to justify a certain reaction.

That’s a big part of the second draft for me.

Now, some people have asked me about beta readers and taking my first draft to writers’ group. There’s certainly nothing wrong with it. In fact, I know tons of people who start getting feedback after their first draft. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work for me. Why? Because my first drafts are a MESS. For reals. They’re a GIGANTIC mess.

I write my first draft as quickly as possible: no re-reading, no editing, nothing. I’m really just trying to vomit the story down on paper and that’s it.

Consequently, the draft is chock full of errors. On top of that, I run into situations where I don’t want to deal with something in the moment. For example, there’s a lengthy conversation that needs to happen near the beginning of book 2. And I know where the conversation should head. But when I was writing, I didn’t want to deal with that conversation because I didn’t know exactly what needed to be said. However, I knew EXACTLY what happened after the conversation. So I literally wrote “[Insert fun conversation here]”, skipped it, and kept right on going.

I also write lots of random notes. These can include potential spoiler questions (“Does the way Blaize react to this situation give away what happens later?”, etc…), plot holes (#spoileralert), and even notes to myself (“Good job with this chapter, Cody!”). Seriously. I write stuff like that throughout.

That’s why I don’t have people read the first draft :) Part of the purpose of my second draft is to fill in all the holes and fix all these potentials issues.

* This may be the first time I’ve ever written “Nor.”

3. The Book Becomes an Extrovert (Writers’ Group!)

Book 2 is an extrovert

Once all the high level issues are resolved and the novel is more complete, I take it to writers’ group. That consists of bringing questionable chapters for 2-3 months and receiving critiques. Questionable chapters include the beginning (as the beginning of any novel is crucial) and any other sections I’m not sure work.

At writers’ group, I get feedback from TONS of different people. The way group is structured, I end up with different people most weeks. So I get to hear from beginners, experts, and everyone in between. Using this input, I edit the novel and come out with the third draft.

4. Beta Readers

Book 2 Beta Readers

By this point, the novel should be feeling pretty good. And it’s time to give the whole thing to beta readers. Unlike writers’ group, this phase has a select group of people read the ENTIRE novel.

What is their job? Well, I choose people of different ages and skill levels. So their duties can vary. Honestly, I’m just wanting their overarching thoughts. I’ll usually include a questionnaire that asks about plot, characters, tension, etc… And I also ask for a Rotten Tomatoes score. This is my chance to see if the novel, as a whole, works for different audiences.

For book 2, I’m going to use three rounds of beta readers. The first will consist of five people. Then I’ll make edits and circulate it to the second group. Lather, rinse, repeat to the third group and the next draft will be done!

5. Professional Services Time

Book 2 Professional

Now that the novel’s overall structure is good, it’s time to hire professionals. This includes a content editor, who will also look at plot, tension, and voice to see if anything crucial is missing. Although I’ve already analyzed these high-level components several times, a professional editor will often provide expert advice that was previously omitted.

In addition to a content editor, I also hire a copy editor who will review the tiny things like spelling, punctuation, and grammar. Although I said “tiny”, I don’t want to underestimate the importance of a content editor. Spelling errors will absolutely destroy the credibility of a book. In fact, most indie book contests eliminate books with lots of small errors.

While all this editing is going on, I also bring artists into the mix to make the cover.

6. Publishing Time!

Book 2 Publishing

At this point, I have all the components needed: a fully-edited book and all the assets to go with it. Using these pieces, the book is ready to go live!

DUN DUN DUNNNN!

OK now all this leads to the ultimate question you’re probably wondering:

When will the book be published?

Wellllllll, it’s hard to say. I expected book 1 to go live about 6-9 months after the first draft was done.

Didn’t happen.

I ended up rewriting entire sections of the novel from scratch. Therefore, it ended up taking WAAAAY longer than I thought. While the first draft took three months, I spent two years editing.

You read that right. TWO YEARS.

Fortunately, I don’t think that’s going to happen with book 2. As the story was already established, it narrowed down the directions I could go. And I think it’s going to narrow down my editing time. At this point, I’m expecting to edit for about 6 months. That means that the book will likely be release around my birthday next year (May!!). But don’t add that date to your calendars yet (well, you can add my birthday). Depending on how the process goes, things could take a bit longer. The key thing to note is I’m not going to release the novel unless it feels right. No matter how long it takes.

Either way, I hope this post gives you an idea of what’s to come. And you’ll be ready to buy thousands of copies for your friends when book 2 is released 😀

Peace out!

About the Author: Cody Wagner

Cody Wagner

Cody is an aspiring author and creator of Wagner Writer. His first novel, A Gay Teen's Guide to Defeating a Siren, was released in 2015. He has a penchant for making weird videos and writing even weirder stories. But not all. Some of his stuff is perfectly normal. He promises.

2 Comments

  1. Reply Jerry Smith

    My brother would make a great beta reader. He reads a lot. Is very smart. Not gay but has me & he lives in Amarillo.

    Let me know if you want him. I have an in with him. Very hard to get otherwise.

    Jerry

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