Now that you’ve got a first draft done…. Walk away.
This is the part a lot of people hate, but I cannot stress this enough:
PUT THE BOOK DOWN.
Wait a month (or at least a week if you’re really that impatient) before you look at the ms again.
The book needs time to rest; your mind needs time to rest. If you jump back into the book now, you’ll end up reading what you think you wrote, not what you did. Give your mind a break from the book. Forget the story, so when you read it again you can come at it with a red pen afresh.
I distract myself at this point by going back to the beginning and starting something new… I guess you could say I write books like you would sing a round.
But seriously…. step away from the book, give it time to settle and then, return to it with a fresh mind ready to slice it to bits.
At this point, you’ve got a draft that is ridiculously befitting its title of “sloppy copy.”
Personally, I think I’m awful at self-editing. Mostly because myself edits tend to result in me adding upwards of 10k words. Sometimes this is good… sometimes… it means I have to do a second self edit and end up doing quite a bit of cutting again.
Self editing is a time to: discover plot holes, fill them in with your red pen backhoe; realize you forgot about a character after chapter three, decide whether to ditch him or work him into the rest of the book; find out that you really love the words “granted,” “egalitarian,” or “cavort,” and cut down the 345 times you’ve used them to about 10; and so many other things.
Betas & Crit Partners
Betas are the people you let read your book, trusting that they’re willing to tell you when something’s wrong with it. If you hand someone a book and their only offer in return is “I really liked it.” There are sites online where you can find anonymous critiques, and through the blog-o-verse you can find a plethora of talented authors who are willing to help you. But one thing is certain you HAVE to have someone else look at your work.
I’m lucky enough to have a mother who will read one of my books, say “I really liked it,” and then hand me back a manuscript with 5k change notes… if you think I’m kidding, this is the track changes from Novel #5:
And sometimes... I get revision notes that look like this:
|It was around Halloween|
I’m also lucky enough to have a crit partner (all the way across the country) who reads my stuff and points out things I was too caught up in the story to notice – or points out places where a detail needs to be added.
Basically what I’m saying is: Find people to help you, love them, because even if what they say isn’t what you want to hear, it’s what you need to hear.
This step might take a few repetitions.
And ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS remember: If someone doesn’t understand a part of your novel… it’s not because they’re dumb, or they “obviously didn’t read it well enough,” it’s because you haven’t done your job well enough yet.