Everyone has to start somewhere. Ideally, that would be your first draft. But what do you do once that first draft is finished? How do you go from Writer, to Published Author? These are questions that every young writer has to ask.
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If you're like I was when I first started, you'll have lots of questions. This post will attempt to address the most important ones. What comes next? After the Drafting phase, you start the messy, convoluted mess that is Editing. This phase breaks down into several loose stages: Feedback, The Developmental Edit, The Line Edit, and The Format Edit. As you move from one stage into the next, the work involved with editing gets more intensive. With the last edit, The Format Edit, being the last edit you'll likely do before publication.
Quick disclaimer, none of these stages have set boundaries or time limits. You'll be bouncing around through each of these stages every time you sit down to edit your work. There's a lot of contention on the exact phrasing of these stages, and many editors and authors have different opinions on what goes on at this time. So above all, keep calm and keep yourself inspired with plenty of determination.
One last misconception before moving on, the Second Draft is a vastly different thing from the First Draft. In the First Draft, you write until you hit The End, and that's that. But with the Second Draft, you stay in that phase until one of two things happens, 1: you rewrite your project, or 2: You get your book published. Plenty of people get this wrong. They think because a professional editor worked on it, their draft is now in the Third Draft, or beyond. This simply isn't how that works. Each draft is a "finished" version of your project. Once the editing stage is started, your project won't be considered finished again until you're published. The first thing a young author NEEDS to do after they've finished the First Draft is find someone to share it with. This is called the Feedback Stage. You need to find yourself Beta Readers, and hear what people have to say about your project. This is going to suck... Big Time. This advice seems counter-intuitive at first, but at this stage the most important thing you can do for yourself is assume your work is going to suck. This is normal. Even the biggest, baddest, richest, and most successful authors of our times write sucky first drafts. If you're capable of developing a thick hide and an open mind to criticism, you'll improve leaps and bounds. Especially compared to authors who can't or won't. It's a good thing to be proud of what you did. But if you let your pride attach itself to your project, your prides going to be CRUSHED.
Next comes one of two things, The Re-write, or the Developmental Edit. With the feedback you got from your Beta readers/reviewers, you'll no doubt be aware of some of the places you need to work on. Lines that need to be changed, characters that are interfering with your story. In some cases, you'll have new ideas for your story that change it so fundamentally, you'll need to go right back to the drawing board and re-write the whole thing. I know from experience that a re-write suggestion is a soul-crushing one. But I promise you, it's worth it. Your writing style will have changed a LOT by the time you finish the First Draft. Re-writing will help you smooth out any big changes that you've made since the beginning.
But if you don't need that, the Developmental Edit is waiting for you. This Edit is all about breaking your story apart, chapter by chapter and streamlining each section for maximum storytelling. If that sounds hard, don't worry. I'll be doing several deep dives here breaking down exactly how to make the most of this stage. (Like, follow, sign up, and share so you won't miss it!) For now just know, you'll need to read each chapter individually, and focus on making sure everything reads okay. Some cheap tips include reading your project out loud, and start reading at the end of your manuscript instead of the beginning (last chapter first, first chapter last).
After that, comes the Line Edit. Oof, the Line Edits. In this stage, you'll be combing over every. single. line. in. your. manuscript. There's a reason most editors charge an arm and a leg for this service. This stage is also when you'll want to use a Text Analysis to break your project down statistically, and mess around with a thesaurus to make sure every sentence is the EXACT right sentence, with the EXACT right number of words, and the EXACT right words to describe everything.
It's a lot of work, but the results often separate the newbie authors from the pro's. So if you've got the money, it's worth getting. If you don't, it's BEYOND worth studying. You never know, you might have a talent and passion for editing. Learning how to line edit is a skill that is in high demand now that publishers are becoming increasingly discriminating about what projects they pick to publish.
The last edit is the formatting edit. This is also called the copy edit, and it pretty much means "make sure everything looks right when you go to publish this thing." There is nothing more heartbreaking than to see a new author who's worked SO HARD to get published, only to have their work butchered by the site they're using to show it off. Paragraphs, images, italics, fonts, and even word sizes can change drastically depending on when or where you go to publish your work. And, of course, the larger your work, the more you have to check before you click "submit." And this is even more pressing for Amazon as a self-publishing option, because they don't do anything to course-correct if you accidentally mess something up. Imagine publishing your book, but no one will buy it because your Chapter Headings are all messed up. That's a true nightmare.
This is everything for the editing page. Keep your eyes peeled for even more DIY 101 guides to take your writing skills to the next level!