Last week I discussed the first six steps in my personal novel writing process. Today, we finish the discussion…
A 12 Step Novel Writing Process
Part 2: Steps 7-12
7. Plot Draft – Go ahead, it’s okay. You can actually start writing now:-)
I call my first draft the ‘plot draft’ because it helps me focus on what’s most important at this point, the story…the plot. You just have to write. Period. You cannot go back and edit.
Write and do not edit. Just get the words on the page. Your plot draft is supposed to stink to high heaven and be full of run on sentences and grammatical mistakes.
The key is just to write…and write…and write!
And when you are done with your plot draft, take time to congratulate yourself. You have just accomplished something wonderfully hard and worthwhile!
Sidenote: Remember, now that you have scene outlines and summaries, you don’t have to necessarily write in chronological order. When you find yourself at a road block with a particular section of the story, you just peruse your scenes and find another part of the story that sounds interesting and keep on writing. You have already thought it through and planned it out!
8. Personal Revision #1 – After you are done with the plot draft, take a few weeks off. Don’t even look at the story.
Seriously, put it down!
Come back with fresh eyes and read through the entire story, start to finish. With this read you are only concerned with story flow and pace.
Does the story as you envisioned it in the outline come across on the page? Are there parts that need to be cut? Characters that need to be developed? Scene changes that don’t make sense? The ending that sounded so great before on paper not looking so hot?
Make those changes.
9. Personal Revision #2 – Now you can get the red pen out and take care of all that punctuation and grammar that’s been causing you anxiety. Do the best you can on your way and get your draft as neat and as polished as you can.
10. Peer Revision – The key here is to get more eyeballs on your work that can find things you missed. The key here is NOT to get praise.
Don’t ask people to read your work when it’s not done (FYI – it’s not done yet) hoping they will give you praise. Because they might, and that’s the worse thing that could happen to help your story improve.
Find 2 – 3 people in your life that a) like to read and b) you know will tell you the truth. These people need to be able to read your work and tell you just how much needs to get changed. Trust me, it’s a good thing.
Take the information you get back from this process and weigh it carefully. If it is legitimate and helps improve the story, make the changes. If it doesn’t, well, ignore it. You have ultimate creative control.
Sidenote: Another very, very positive option is to find a local or online critique group. This will include other writers that you can not only learn from, but also give back to the writing community.
11. Personal Revision #3 (Final Manuscript) – One last time, just for good measure, go through and make sure you are happy with story flow, character development and scene structure. Make line edits as you go, always trying to correct grammar and punctuation as you find it.
Read your synopsis again. Does the story do what the synopsis says?
If so, you are almost done.
12. Professional Edit – This one has much debate, and rightfully so. My humble opinion is that a professional edit is worth it. But…
Only if you find someone that will actually do what you are going to pay them to do. I know that’s a loaded comment. The key is you want to find someone who can go through and find all the things that you and your friends and you (again) missed. At this point you should be focusing on technical editing, not the story. Find a grammar/punctuation fanatic that will work your manuscript over like it is going to be submitted for the Pulitzer. If you can find that person, it is worth every cent.
And when I say “professional edit”, I don’t mean your friend who is the school teacher or your neighbor who won the essay contest at the local fair. Find a reputable, true-blue editor that you don’t know (but that you then can build a working relationship with). This is easier said than done. So take time and check references to make sure your expectations match that of the editor.
Assuming you find a great match, whatever grammar or punctuation changes that don’t take away from the voice of your story that they tell you to make…make them.
NOW you are done!
You have a real life manuscript that you can be very proud of. It will never be perfect. Every writer has the feeling of wanting to go back and change something. But if all writing was supposed to be perfect we wouldn’t have anything to read.
You did it. Congratulations!
If you have written a story, or have thought about writing one but haven’t started, I would love to hear about it. Leave me a comment below.