Writing a first draft of a book is an enormous accomplishment, no matter how “rough” the rough draft may be. Often when authors come to me for help developing their manuscript or publishing it, they’ve taken the book to this stage by themselves. But how do you take a first draft to a polished manuscript? Here are five things to keep in mind:
1. Put it away for a few days. Now’s the time to put some distance between yourself and what you’ve written. Take time off for anywhere from three days to three weeks. This will help you read the manuscript more objectively when you return to it, and you’ll see ways that you can improve it.
2. Know that you’ll start to second-guess yourself. I’m currently working on a book that’s at the completed-first-draft stage. Right on cue, my fears have surfaced and taken on a voice. “Do you really think anyone will be interested in THAT?” “Why are you wasting your time?” It’s natural to doubt yourself. Just know that this is part of the process, and you can do two things: mentally turn down the volume on the fear and get back in touch with the excitement that prompted you to get to this stage in the first place.
3. Examine your manuscript with fresh eyes. After letting your book sit for a while, read it with the perspective of someone who’s seeing it for the first time. Ask yourself questions: What belongs in this book, and what doesn’t? (Even if you’re emotionally attached to a brilliant paragraph or chapter, you may have to nix it if it doesn’t contribute to the message of the book.) What’s missing? If it’s fiction, are the characters well developed? Does the plot build to a climax? If it’s nonfiction, have you presented the material clearly and logically? Does it flow in a way that propels the reader through the manuscript?
4. Break it down into manageable steps. You can’t refine the entire book in one sitting. Break it down chapter by chapter or page by page, and improve it a little each day so you won’t be overwhelmed.
5. Seek out the voice of support. Find someone who understands your passion for this project and will help you through the self doubts and the mechanics of refining your manuscript.
If you’d like more information or a free 30-minute consultation, contact me. We’ll clarify your book idea and work together until your manuscript shines!