Friday, June 3, 2011

You've typed "The End." Now what?

Congratulations! You've finished your first draft! After months (maybe years) you've finally typed THE END.

So. Now what?

Do you dive into editing? Start a new project? Do you start looking up literary agents? Do you click print and send the whole 400 pages to every publishing house in the country?

The answers to some of those questions (like the last one) should be obvious. But others probably aren't.

While it can be super tempting to immediately dive into editing, I think taking a breather is wise.

Stephen King suggests "at least 6 weeks." When I can (read: when I'm not on a fast-approaching deadline) that's advice to which I pay serious attention.

Giving yourself 6 weeks away from your manuscript enhances your ability to edit. By the time 6 weeks is up, I find I've nearly forgotten everything this story is supposed to be about. Which is good, because that means the blinders have fallen away, and I can read the story for what it is.

It's HARD to wait 6 weeks, and it's good if you can have someone keep you accountable. 7 years ago, I finished a manuscript and put it away. My friend Lindsey asked me what my next step was going to be.

"Stephen King says to put manuscripts away for 6 weeks, so that's what I'm doing!" I told her, super excited to feel like such a real writer. I marked the date on my calendar for 6 weeks later - Start edits on Clarity! - and went on my way.

A week later, I couldn't take it any more. I opened the file and began to read.

Lindsey called me that night and could tell I was down. "What's wrong?" she said.

"I read the first couple chapters of my book. They're horrible!"

"Stephanie - you said 6 weeks. Put it away!"

She was right. Five weeks later when I opened it up, the writing still sucked, but it wasn't nearly as troubling to me. Why? Because I'd had some separation from all the hard work. I wasn't sitting there dwelling on how I'd slaved away at this manuscript for over 6 months and it was garbage.

I'd had 6 weeks off, which meant I was rejuvenated and could edit more effectively.

Should you work on another project during your time off? Sure! If it sounds fun, go for it. Stephen King says he writes short stories during his 6 weeks. I'm not a short story girl, so I usually put together a book proposal for some other book idea that's been wiggling around in my brain.

Take time to replenish your inner-artist. Reread your favorite book. Walk around an art museum. Watch good movies. You'll reap the rewards big time when you launch into your edits.

Which we'll discuss next week. Have a great weekend everyone!


  1. I don't generally count it out, but distance is certainly crucial to a good edit. You're not so emotionally attached to it. Under deadline I might only have two weeks (like this spring), or maybe I'm busy on something else so give it two months. But then it's actually FUN to go back and whip 'er into shape!

  2. A real problem I have is actually finishing the first draft because I keep feeling what I am writing is horrible :( I know writers say everyone's first draft is bad but it's seem to be blocking me because i also keep thinking my ideas are bad and nit going to go anywhere. I'm sure it has a lot to do with me wanting to do things perfectly BUT I think it's really started to hold me back (the lack of confidence and belief in my ideas/ what I write) anyway to get past it?
    I'm not sure i can even fully develop an idea because I start thinking about it & it never seems to measure up or something comes up that's weird and I think " get rid of it it'll never be good"

  3. I've had that problem a lot.I'd get a fair way into it, then I'd suddenly decide I hated the writing. So I'd go back and rewrite everything. I've only ever finished one first draft and it was pretty short. It's something I have to work on too.

  4. I think I read more than I write haha. =)
    Great advice though! Thanks for posting! =D

  5. And you have deadlines when your in publishing...? I mean I knew that to a point, I guess what I want to know is; how long do publishing companies usually give you to write the first draft of your book??

  6. It varies. When you pitch something as a debut author, you will almost always have to have the full manuscript done before they sign a contract. So that one's easy. But if they buy a series from you or something, they have a deadline of when they want the completed manuscript. So when I sold Me, Just Different and Revell bought 2 more in the series, Out with the In Crowd was due within 4 months and So Over It was due only 3 months after that. It was tight.

    Once you're published, it's understood you haven't written the book yet. Usually your book is due around a year out from the pub date.

  7. Suri, we ALL struggle with that to an extent. I wrote a post about it a couple weeks ago:

  8. Did you have 2 other skylar books when they contracted the first one? I was justing if the contracted the first one & said you have so many months to write 2 more it's be scary & I would panic!
    Should first time authors be thinking in terms or series when they are writing their first book? Series seem pretty popular

  9. Do you have a title in mind as you write? If so, were the titles of the books in the Skylar series the original ones that you picked in the beginning?

  10. Great advice! It's so hard after you finally write THE END though!

  11. Thank you for SUCH good advice...

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  12. I am far from the end, but when I get there I will reread this post. thanks. Oh, by the way how long should a short story be.


  13. By the way, so glad that you're not making us wait six weeks until we talk about editing here! :)

  14. Ha ha. That would seem a little tedious :)

  15. So this pretty much answers all the questions I asked on the "How to Write a Novel" page :)