So You’ve Started Your First Draft…Now What?

Courtesy of Ink&Keys Writers Group

  1. Research publishing options. Don’t sign up for a shiny package without knowing what all your choices are. The industry is constantly changing. Know what’s out there.
  2. Set aside money for the publishing process, if you plan to self-publish. Although there are many inexpensive publishing options, it’s important to hire professionals for certain, including various stages of editing and the cover design.
  3. Connect with your target audience. What are they thinking about? What are they doing socially? Academically? Perhaps follow authors that write for them, too. If you don’t know who you’re writing for, your writing may be scattered and unfocused.
  4. Write four different-sized, present tense summaries of your book (twenty word, four hundred word, full page single spaced and three page single spaced). This doesn’t have to wait until you’re first draft is done. It can help you focus, even early on. It takes more skill to write fewer words so this is a great skill to hone.
  5. Always have someone else edit your work. You are too close to it to catch everything. Another set of eyes is vital.
  6. Query agents and enter contests early on. Objective feedback from industry professionals is valuable, even if you plan to self-publish. You lose nothing, except maybe a small entry fee for contests, and some contests require only the first twenty pages of the book.
  7. Once you have a working draft, consider taking your manuscript through a workbook such as “Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook” by Donald Maass.
  8. Have five or six beta (test) readers—who are not your friends or family members—read the final draft of your manuscript.
  9. Pay attention to branding and an overall “look and feel” for your book concept. You want a recognizable cover and marketing materials, and that’s especially the case if your book may turn into a series.
  10. Visit the places you write about. It gives an authenticity to your work that might be missing otherwise. (But if that’s not possible…GOOGLE!)
  11. Use a writing software. Having a bunch of word documents in your computer doesn’t give you the feel of a project that’s coming together. Create a home for your project by using appropriate software. (Scrivener is a popular one.)
  12. Invest time in others—you might think you can’t learn from other new writers, but we did and wouldn’t trade that experience for anything.
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