Any writer who has completed at least one draft of a novel should celebrate. You have done something that few who aspire to publish have done. But what are the next steps?
Writing Tip for Today: Let’s talk about next steps in rewriting:
Organize Your Manuscript
If you’ve received feedback from an editor or critique partner while you were drafting, the first step is to get organized. I usually have folders for each chapter I’ve workshopped as I wrote the first draft. I go through each chapter and make changes as necessary. At this stage, I also write out a brief summary of what happens in each scene of each chapter. I’ll use these summaries later.
When I work in my draft document (I draft using one continuous document as opposed to different files for each chapter), I always copy and paste into a new doc, rename it Revision 1 or something easy to detect, and then save the old document. If you try to work all changes in your old document, you can accidentally erase things you want to come back to. The old first draft is also handy when comparing two versions of your story.
Another reason to save your old doc is when you move scenes or add or delete them. The novel’s timeline can quickly become confusing without the original for comparison. Revising for rising action and building tension often involves changing other details, such as dialogue, when your scene is relocated. Refer to your original to catch these needed changes.
Create a Storyboard
As you rewrite, those scene summaries can be displayed on a storyboard of some type. Storyboards can be fancy on stand-up presentation boards, or simply a list of scenes in order. Pace and tension are more easily noted when you can stand back and see the whole novel at a glance.
I like to use colored sticky notes. A three-sided presentation board is cheap and you can divide your story into three acts. Sticky notes are easy to move around, helping you imagine your story in different ways without actually changing the manuscript.
Consider using one color sticky note for the main story arc, another for subplots and another for your climax scene. You could also color coordinate the character arc or other story elements. Keep your storyboard handy for quick reference as you rewrite. There also programs such as Scrivener that will help you organize your work.
Use a story board to organize your rewrite.
Rewrite and Repeat
New writers sometimes are surprised to learn that this rewrite is not your novel’s final stage. Many rewrites are common and may take a long time to finish. I worked on my first novel for fifteen years before it was contracted—and even then my content editor had me rewrite large chunks of my story.
When you reach the end of a rewrite, you’ll no doubt see a difference in the writing from Chapter One to The End. You’re a different writer now—and we hope, a much-improved writer. These changes in skill and style must be smoothed out in a rewrite.
As you rewrite, don’t forget the formatting. Twelve-point type (usually Times New Roman) and double-spacing with one-inch margins are standard. When you create your “rewrite” version, fix any formatting issues right then. You’ll be glad you did—your manuscript will be in professional formatting for Beta Readers as well as agents and editors in the future. Starting the Rewrite process is easier when you’re organized, you use a storyboard and you know you’re in it for the long haul of revisions. But never give up—keep learning, practicing and keep writing!