I Wrote a Book! Now What?

I’ve completed the rough drafts of many books in my years of writing. What typically happens is I put the finishing touches on the book, read through it once, then put it aside so I can work on the next book in the series. I’m now to the point that I actually need to prepare the book for an agent. So then I ask myself, now what? How do I go about fixing up the book when I know I have a ton of errors interspersed throughout the text?

Here are a few tips I’ve learned while updating my own book.

  • Breathe and Separate: Before you even start editing your story, take a minute to breathe. Separate yourself from the book for a few days, weeks, or even a month or two if that’s what you need. If you jump into it too quickly, the story will be too fresh in your head, and that means it’ll be harder for you to find mistakes. You want to read it fresh. And you also want to convince yourself not to get overwhelmed. This is not a fast process, so pace yourself.
  • Change the formatting: If you have your text double-spaced, single space it. If you have it single-spaced, double space it. You’d be surprised how different your book looks when you do this, and it can help you catch more errors than if you look at it the same way you always have.
  • Print it Out: As with changing the format, printing the book out allows you to look at the story in a different medium. This can also help you find errors as you go through it.
  • Separate the Chapters: If your book is in one document, then save all the chapters as separate documents. As you read through, you can mark off what chapter you’re on. I find that knowing I have to review 44 chapters is less daunting than having to read almost 400 pages.
  • Quick Read Through: Once you’ve had time to breathe, read through your book once without making any changes. If there are changes you want to make, write notes so you don’t distract yourself from reading through. This will help you focus more on plot errors.
  • Pick a Topic: When you decide to edit your book, after the initial read, only choose one topic to edit. Maybe you’re checking for continuity errors. Maybe you’re looking for plot problems, or grammatical changes. Whatever it is, edit one topic at a time because otherwise you might find it way too overwhelming.
  • Color Coding: Color code different types of errors to help keep your edits organized. Use “blue” for continuity problems and “green” to identify when characters show up. Post it notes also help with this if you have a printed copy.

These are just a few tips you can use to start off editing your first draft. As you go through, you’ll become more comfortable with the styles that work for you. If you have any additional suggestions, post them below!

“The End”

Theend2

One of the exciting things about being a writer is watching your world and characters come together. For weeks, months, years, you work with the plot of the story, sometimes hating your writing, and sometimes thinking it’s the most brilliant thing you’ve ever done. It all ends the same, though. One day, you find yourself penning those last words onto the page. Your characters have finished their journey, your world is complete, and the story that you’ve spun together has finally reached its end.

That’s what happened to me today.

Four years and five months ago, I had an idea to write a short book that would consist of 23 chapters. The story was based on a dream that I had, and I thought it would be a great way to get my foot into the door at a publishing company. At that time, I had been working on another series, and I was quite honestly burnt out. I needed something fresh to spark my interest and get my muses working again. So, I started TOTC. I spent months writing the outline and researching. I knew my plot and my characters. I knew the world. I just needed some research about medieval history to help me along the way. Over the years my bookshelves filled with more and more volumes about medieval life, fairies, dragons, Celtic names, and so on and so forth. My search engine was consumed by the same things, and sometimes creepier searches like how long it takes for a body to burn on a pyre. I’m not joking…sometimes you have to research some weird things.

Fast forward to a few years in, and I started using National Novel Writing Month to write more chapters in my story. It was invigorating to sit with fellow writers and develop the story to my own satisfaction. Only once did I truly hate using NaNo to write the book, but I was also going through some personal problems at that time. During my darkest moments, I always had my story and my ideas.

As I continued working, I started to realize that this single book was not possible. If I wanted to give all of my characters their voices and really make the story mean something, I would have to split it into three books instead. I can’t express the amount of relief I felt when I finally made that decision. I was able to write additional scenes that gave my characters more depth. My simple plot line twisted and twisted again until I found myself immersed in a war.

The most interesting thing I noticed was that the simple theme of the story had changed. It wasn’t just about a woman trying to protect the people of the land, but it was about her finding herself again, as well as her faith in the Gods. I watched my protagonist grow from a frightened little girl to a powerful woman. And I grew with her. I found my voice in my writing, and even when I had moments of doubt, I always knew I would finish, no matter what the cost.

This past year, I used two Camp NaNos to try to complete the trilogy. I kept thinking, only 50,000 more words, only 50,000 more words. Actually, an additional 51,000 did the trick. I put the final words on the page today, and I felt a stirring in my stomach. Right now, I think it’s relief, but there’s a prickle of sadness as well. There’s so much work left in the trilogy, but for now, the story is done. The characters have come as far as they are going to go, and it’s time for the adult side of me, the editor, to step up and rip apart my whimsical world to make it even better.

I don’t plan to do this right away. I’m going to put TOTC off to the side for the time being to give myself some separation before I tackle the editing process. For now, I just want to bask in the fact that I finally completed the trilogy. This journey has been a roller coaster ride, and I can’t wait to see what’s in the future.