Your manuscript’s rough draft is like entering an ancient castle, one that has been forgotten by time—caked in heavy dust and cobwebs, growing mold in damp corners. You step inside and can barely breathe, every step you take stirs up clouds from the floor. You think to yourself: This is terrible! What can I do? How can such a thing be cleaned and made ready for visitors?
Let’s explore the 8 Steps to do just that!
Step 1: Get out the weapon of mass dust destruction! And by that I mean the vacuum, and start sucking up as much dust as possible!
The first time you revise your draft will be a heavy and draining process. You are finding and getting rid of the most obvious mistakes and loopholes—both in the plot and in the characters’ development. This can be one of the most frustrating stages (it is for me). It can be hard to focus on the plot when your draft’s writing needs so much work, too. But remember, this stage is all about focusing on the plot and characters, and doing any research you may need done. Improving the writing can come later. Be sure to take breaks as needed, and surround yourself with whatever inspires you, so you won’t feel overwhelmed.
Articles on story structure and plot: helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/secrets-of-story-structure / writeonsisters.com/a-z-challenge-posts
Step 2: You’ve done a good job sucking up the layers of caked dust everywhere—give yourself a pat on the back! The castle no longer looks like an ancient, haunted thing. But there is more work yet to be done. Now, it’s time for the mop! Attack the mold lurking in the castle’s corners, and those stubborn trails of dust and grim still clinging to the floors and walls.
Now that you’ve gone over the plot and character’s, and found and resolved any loopholes, you can focus on the draft’s writing. If you’re someone like me who can’t wait to clean up messy writing, then this stage is what you’ve been waiting for! Rewrite those paragraphs and reword those sentences until the story flows smoothly and gleams like a polished floor!
Step 3: Congratulations! Your castle looks much more inviting, and when you step inside, the air smells fresh and you no longer cough when you breathe it in!
Now is the time for you to step back from all the hard revisions and rewrites you’ve made. Take a break from your manuscript, and let your mind focus on something else. This break is crucial, as it lets you forget the story and come back to it later with refreshed eyes. About a month-long break is good, I’ve found, and you can use the time to focus on a different story or project you’ve had laying around. (If you think you’re ready, you can even use this break to hand over your manuscript to a few early beta readers.)
Step 4: After a much-needed break, you return to the castle to further tidy up!
You’ve returned to your story, and oh my goodness the flaws and mistakes are bleeding red all over the manuscript-place! But it’s okay, don’t panic. This is why it was important to take a break. Your refreshed mind can now see what more work needs to be done, and you are feeling more energized to dive in and correct it!
Step 5: Time for the finer details: scouring out all of those small crevices and cracks where dust may have hid.
Once you’ve gone over the obvious mistakes after taking a break, you’ll tackle the less visible ones that are still hiding from you. This will be a long and detailed process, needing much thought and care as you fine-tune your manuscript. Keep motivated! Keep heading towards the final goal! By the time you are finished with this step, the result will be one clean, lovely manuscript that you can be proud of!
Step 6: You’ve cleaned the place, spruced everything up and added every final touch you could think of, and now…it’s time to let a few visitors in!
Yes, that’s right: It’s beta reader time! This step is vital, and also nerve-racking. It’s how you will test the waters and observe readers’ reaction to your story. And waiting and wondering whether that reaction will be positive or negative is like waiting for a test’s result… Instead of letting myself worry, I jumped into work on a novella project for my series. If you have another project to begin drafting or revising, use this waiting time to begin on that, and before you know it time will fly by and the beta readers will turn in their results.
Articles on beta reading: well-storied.com/blog/finding-your-ideal-critique-partner / helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/find-your-next-beta-reader / thebookdesigner.com/things-you-should-know-about-working-with-beta-readers
Step 7: Your selected first visitors tour the castle, and afterwards leave a series of notes for you to look over—their thoughts and recommendations for improvement. Perhaps you let in a second wave of visitors, to gather more opinions after you’ve read the notes from the first.
Once all visitors have gone, you consider each note, each thought and recommendation, and you comb through the castle once again accordingly. The final look-over before opening day to the public is an all-nighter as you comb through each room, making sure the decor and color-schemes match and that paintings and tapestries are placed just so…
Taking in the first wave of beta readers’ feedback—their notes and thoughts—you go over your manuscript, making adjustments. You may choose to have a second or even third wave of beta readers (which I recommend, and is what I’m doing for Strayborn), as this can give you a broader view of how the public may react. You repeat this process until you are completely satisfied with your story and your writing style (remember, the writing style can make or break a story).
Step 8: The Big Reveal! It’s opening day, and your castle is finally ready to greet visitors from around the world!
Your manuscript has blossomed from a pitiful shrub into a glorious rose garden! (or whatever flower you prefer ). It’s ready to be released, and so you carefully, lovingly open your palms and let it fly free into the world. Whether it will gain a large audience or a small, dedicated one, you can now rest knowing that you put your heart and soul into making it be the best it can be. Enjoy the results of your hard work!
~Happy cleaning, writers! ❤
Tell us about your experiences with rough drafts in the comments section.
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