Finished The First Draft of Your Novel? Now What?

© Copyright Arabella K. Federico 2021 All Rights Reserved

First draft

Finished your first draft? WOW! That alone is such a HUGE accomplishment, and you should be so proud of yourself for completing it. A lot of people begin a novel but never get to the end. But, all praise and fuzzy feelings aside, this is just the beginning.

As soon as you've completed your first draft...

To begin, as I’ve said, what you’ve done is a massive accomplishment. Even if you’re reading this and you’ve yet to complete your novel, you’re still working on it. You’re putting words on the page and getting there, one damn word at a time. That’s commendable, and I’m proud of you.  My first piece of advice to you? LEAVE THE DAMN THING ALONE! I know! I knooowwww…you’re all gun-ho to keep going once the draft is completed. You’ve got momentum, and you feel the urge to get on to the next step. Well, too bad. It would be best to let the story rest and come back with a fresh, newer perspective. Please, don’t skip this step. Truly, it’s essential to take a break from your story because you’re going to be better able to spot mistakes once you come back to it.
First draft

at least 60 days later...

Firstly, how’d you enjoy your beauty rest? Hope it was fabulous because now it’s time to get to work. You’re gonna wish you were back in your rest period because it won’t end again until you’re done-done with your novel. At least that’s how it’s been for me, but always feel free to take breaks at any time you need to. There’s nothing wrong with that. Now I digress…re-read your novel. It’s literally that simple. For now.
First draft

do not-I repeat-DO NOT edit this draft as you go

Secondly, one of the biggest mistakes you can make here is editing as you go. Especially line edits. Chances are those line edits won’t even exist in the final draft, so just bite that annoying perfectionist voice in your head that’s telling you to fix that adverb, because it’s a waist of your time right now. What isn’t a waist of your time is keeping a detailed list of all the things you want to fix in the story. Big and small. I like bullet-point lists, of all the storytelling things you want to fix or change. A few sentences maximum of what you want edited, then move on to finishing that read
writing a novel

now comes the fun part

Thirdly,  by this point, you’ve finished your read-through, and now you’ve got two choices. One, take your edits and put them in. Typically, first drafts aren’t written this cleanly; mine sure wasn’t. This leads to option two: a complete rewrite. Now, before you start crying and calling me a jerk, let me first tell you that there’s nothing inherently wrong with a rewrite. In fact, my SECOND rewrite led to such a bigger, more high-concept idea that’s my current book’s iteration, and I’m SO happy with it. The previous draft was a joke compared to the new one. So my advice is to do what you feel is right for the story; instead of what’s right for your timeline. You did it once; you absolutely can do it again. And again, and again. Get used to that.
first draft

Once you're happy with your storytelling, it's beta time

Typically, it takes even professional writers many drafts to get to the final one they’re satisfied with. At this point, you can begin your line edits, but I wouldn’t be too concerned about them at this point. Contrarily, your focus needs to be upon your selected beta readers. What’s a beta reader? A few people, I’d say anywhere from 3-6, will read your current draft and give you feedback on the story. NOT on grammar or spelling! Do not waste this golden opportunity on line edits. It’s a waste.  You want to urge your betas to give you honest, critical feedback about the storytelling. Character arcs, pacing, the opening, etc. Check out my Protagonist series Part  1 Part 2. Assure these betas understand that they won’t be punished in any way for giving you negative feedback. Pro-tip: don’t ask friends and family. …trust me.

apply, apply, apply

Honestly, take your beta’s recommendations with a grain of salt. You’re under absolutely zero obligation to do anything they suggest, and they’re mainly there to see what you cannot. Take it or leave it, that’s up to you and you alone. They’re not your editor or agent. Contrarily, I will say, that even though what they’ve got to say may sting, it may just be the truth and what your story needs. That’s okay. It does not make you a bad writer, it doesn’t make you stupid for not seeing it, and their responses are there to help you be better. That’s your ultimate goal-to write the best book you can. It has nothing to do with your worth or value as a writer or a person. We’re all growing and learning and I promise your betas will be a powerful learning experience for you.
writing advice

now you can line edit your draft

Additionally, this is where you’re going to want to fancy up your prose and give your writing your own personal touch and voice. Voice is authenticity. So be authentic in your writing. This is going to be the last big pass-through before you go forth with whatever publishing path you choose. Whether that be traditional or indie-publishing. Those paths divulge into different steps, and if you’d like a post about the differences between those paths, drop a comment below.
Vintage Typewriter Writing Pad Pen  - DarkmoonArt_de / Pixabay


In closing, this is the most basic, dots-placed-close-together route to getting your book to where you want it to be. I’ve seen some writers ponder if they should immediately start beta’s after a first draft, or even just line-edit, send it to an editor to fix up and publish independently on Amazon. Not what I would recommend…in fact, I’d say that’s probably the worst route a writer can take. Some people write very clean first drafts, but for the majority of us humans, that’s not the case. I like to call the first draft “draft zero” because it’s essentially a physical representation of this new story that you’ve just conceptualized. Even if you’re a great outliner, chances are your first draft isn’t up to par with the competition out there. You’re a great writer, do the steps, and you’ll get to your end goal. Promise.
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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Ashmikaa

    Amazing post! I completely agree with all your tips and I actually enjoyed re writing my novel. I do enjoy drafting much more that editing.

    1. arabella

      Thank you Askmikaa! I so appreciate you dropping a comment. I enjoyed re-writing mine as well. Drafting is super fun, and I don’t know why I’m such a weirdo and LOVE editing but I do for some weird reason. I was thinking of possibly offing editing services at some point, but we’ll see. Keep writing that novel, I believe in you!

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