Mark O'Neill

Is the first draft of your novel finished?

author first draft

So, have you finished the first edit of your self-published book manuscript yet? If so, what’s next? Start on the second draft? Start working up some graphics? The answer, which some of you may find anti-climatic, is this – do nothing for the moment.

Say, what?

Listen, once the first draft is finished, you need to “let it sit” for the time being. I’m sure you will be gung-ho to get on with editing, polishing, tweaking, and what-not. But let me explain why it’s best to hold off.

Recharging your mind and keeping your perspective

You will likely have spent months, if not longer, doing that first draft. You will have sweated over it, worried about it, chewed over every sentence, and let the whole manuscript occupy your brain the whole time. It’s likely that you will have uttered some very colourful language while squeezing the words out.

Don’t deny it, it happens to us all – if only laptops could talk.

When you finish the first draft, you immediately need to flush the manuscript out of your brain. Think about something else. Do something else. Catch up on your reading, have a lie-in, smell the roses. Binge-watch Netflix. Have lots of sex.

Then approach the manuscript afresh later with a clearer, more open mind.

What will happen if you don’t take a break from the first draft

If you disregard my advice and immediately launch into editing the day after you type THE END on the first draft, I guarantee you will miss a lot of typos, plot holes, grammar bloopers, and more. Coloured by your stressful experience of writing it, you may even adopt the attitude of “this all sucks!” and spontaneously delete the entire thing, convinced you’re doing the world a favour.

This would be a big mistake. Go back to it after approximately 6-8 weeks, and I promise you’ll have a much better perspective on the work. You’ll find lots of ways to improve it and you’ll catch a lot of unintended errors.

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