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When the first draft is done - what next?

Posted: June 13th, 2010, 1:46 am
by khanes
Hello everyone! I just finished the first draft of my first novel, and now its out being picked apart by my beta readers. I know I'll have to go through a lot of revisions, and this makes me reluctant to start my next project. I'm worried thoughts about my new work could taint the flow of my past story. However, I feel like I must write, every day, no matter what. What do you do when you finish a MS and are waiting for feedback? Do you start something new, or keep your focus on your current MS?

Re: When the first draft is done - what next?

Posted: June 13th, 2010, 11:05 am
by Claudie
That is, in my opinion, a very personal answer. It will depend on the writer, and what I'm about to say might not work for you.

As for myself, well, I start something else. I never had a problem moving between projects and working on different stories or worlds. I take note here and there, and last time I went as far as write another full novel.

There's a number of things I can think of doing that do not involve you starting another story. You can write flash fiction. You can spend more time reading. You can research your setting even more thoroughly (or develop it, if it's fantasy). You can pick books on writing. And you can waste spend a lot of time on writing forums or blogs, and learn from others. These shouldn't detract you from your current MS.

Re: When the first draft is done - what next?

Posted: June 13th, 2010, 12:07 pm
by dios4vida
Claudie's right, the answer is different for everyone.

Some people (like myself) prefer to move onto another project - clear out your mind as your beta readers go through the ms. Then when you get it back, you can read it with fresher eyes. Stepping back and being able to read it after a few weeks/months away really helps you to see the edits without as much emotional attachment to the prose, making it easier to accept changes that would have been hard before.

Others like to take a sabbatical, rest, relax, and get reacquainted with life in general. Take a break from all writing and do something different for a change. I've tried this and personally I can't stay away. :)

I've heard a few people who try to read and edit the ms along with their betas, but (again, this is all personal preference here) I wouldn't recommend that. Getting time away from the story and characters is crucial for me to accept the criticism, and if you edit while others do the same you'll end up changing things they see as fine and vice versa, thereby making it difficult to decide exactly what direction to go.

I think mainly you need to figure out what you want to do. If you feel like taking a break, then do so! There isn't a problem with stepping away for a while to celebrate the accomplishment of finishing a novel (and by the way, it's a HUGE accomplishment, so you deserve to celebrate!), nor with moving on, nor with continuing to work. It's all up to you. :)

Re: When the first draft is done - what next?

Posted: June 13th, 2010, 12:11 pm
by lac582
I haven't finished my first draft yet - and I will likely launch straight into revisions - but once I have a polished enough version to kick out to beta readers I will likely work on a short story. It depends on your genre (mine's Science Fiction), but I have a short story idea on the backburner and I figure that if it turns out well I'll submit it to literary magazines, which could up my chances of finding representation for the novel.

Re: When the first draft is done - what next?

Posted: June 13th, 2010, 12:34 pm
by Quill
When the first draft is done - what next?

*cues noisemakers and confetti*

No, really, it's time to clean the house and attend to all the other business I totally let go while I was finishing the writing.

I'm not one of those have-to-write-everyday people. I tend to write in spurts, some of them very long and involved spurts. Well, that's not true, I write on the forum just about everyday. And in my mind, that counts.

But if I was a have-to-write-everyday person I would either go to some shorter projects, start or work on a longer project, or if the present WIP had back-up work needed that I knew about, such as research or plot/character fixes, I'd work on those to get ready for the 2nd draft.

Come to think of it, I would never let my first draft out of the house. But the same would apply to later drafts or my completed work if out on query. It would be chores, vacation, or on to the next thing.

Re: When the first draft is done - what next?

Posted: June 13th, 2010, 8:05 pm
by izanobu
I start the next project.

Re: When the first draft is done - what next?

Posted: June 14th, 2010, 8:42 am
by Sommer Leigh
Personally when I finish a project, I start reading. I kind of give myself a short break to finish reading a couple of novels and give myself a chance to unthink my other project. I use this time to specifically read outside my comfort zone though. I read a lot of YA, both supernatural and contemporary and everything in between. So I choose books that are very different. Romance, history, biography, mythology. I already read a lot of classics but I might try a classics from another language that I hadn't considered reading before. When I finished my first draft of my current project I read The Road by Cormac McCarthy and Bel Canto by Ann Patchett. They were very different in language and feel and it kind of gave me a way to shake off the mindset I'd been living in for so long.

But, as others have said, everyone is different. Half the fun is figuring out your own personal rituals and idiosyncrasies.

Re: When the first draft is done - what next?

Posted: June 14th, 2010, 10:16 am
by polymath
Conventional advice for post drafting is to put a manuscript out of mind, create some distance, let it set for a bit. Then once all its minute detail is all but forgotten and a fresh perspective can be brought to bear, come at it like a critiquer. Odds are writing skills have advanced in the meantime, perhaps critical processes have advanced as well. Read it aloud, check for flow. Start out top down. Scrutinize the big picture. Check for subconscious influences that were overlooked while writing, things like unintended voice features that stand out and speak volumes. Other prominences might be worth scrutinizing. Clever darlings might now seem trite, overworn, or too cutely clever to tolerate.

Completed early drafts I've read for other writers have one commonality, an unsettled narrative voice. Who's addressing who? Is the narrator as author surrogate directly addressing the audience in one sentence, telling, then in the next sentence the narrator is reporting the narrator's perspective of the story space, then the narrator is reporting a viewpoint character's meaning space? Not that there's anything particularly ineffective about real author-real reader interactions and transitions to narrator-narratee interactions and close reader-viewpoint character interactions, and back and forth seemingly randomly when they're abrupt transitions, but they can figuratively twist heads and give readers a figurative stiff neck from staccato transitions. My guiding principle is whose story is it? Author's? Narrator's? Viewpoint characters'? With which whom are readers meant to have the closest relationship?

Re: When the first draft is done - what next?

Posted: June 14th, 2010, 11:57 am
by Holly
Give yourself a pat on the back and a little celebration for reaching a milestone! Congratulations from yours truly. That's a lot of work.

You still have some other writing tasks: the synopsis, query letter, and agent research. All three are time-consuming and require different skills from writing a novel.

When I finished my first draft, I worked on the synopsis (three versions: one-page, two-pages, and three-to-five pages), the query letter, and agent research. The agent research meant I looked at sites like Query Tracker and the AAR, read agent blogs and interviews, and searched for books that might be similar to mine. I used Amazon's "look inside this book" feature, and then looked at the books again at the library, because the look inside feature can be deceptive. I freaked out over the synopsis, but now I understand the basic point -- hitting the themes and the highlights. Right now I am revising my novel, so I'll have to tackle those tasks again.

Re: When the first draft is done - what next?

Posted: June 14th, 2010, 12:00 pm
by Ermo
First thing you should do is pour yourself a drink. Congrats- you've completed a novel. That's pretty effing cool. Then, I'd recommend putting the MS away for a month or so. I'd write a short story to submit to literary mags and then return to the MS. I would do this BEFORE sending to beta readers. Why? Because it's likely you'll find some rather large plot holes, problems with voice, etc. that you'll want to fix before sending out. Then send it out, edit, and then edit again. You might want to also start working on your query if you're unable to move on to another project. Good luck.

Re: When the first draft is done - what next?

Posted: June 23rd, 2010, 10:00 pm
by Casey Lybrand
Congratulations on finishing your first draft, khanes!

I love all the great advice here, especially the strategies for getting a little distance before tackling post-beta-reading revisions. I think I will write short fiction when I'm at that stage. We'll see. Have to finish the first draft first!

Re: When the first draft is done - what next?

Posted: June 24th, 2010, 3:29 pm
by xouba
Take a holiday. Put some space between you and your draft, so when you come back from that trip to the mountain or from those days bathing in the sun at the beach, you can have a fresher view on it.

Re: When the first draft is done - what next?

Posted: June 25th, 2010, 1:30 pm
by khanes
Thanks for the advice, everyone! I'm taking some time to clear my head, wrote a flash fiction piece, read a bit, and am now thinking nonstop about my next book. I wrote 9 pages, but I feel like the characters need to marinate in my head a little more before I start writing it. I'm getting the feedback from Beta readers back next week or so, and I know the revision process will be huge! I can't wait. I love working on my book!