No matter how many times I do it, completing that first draft brings a sense of euphoria I can’t quite describe. It’s like winning the first race on sports day. Sure you have more to go, but at the end of the day, you have that one winning medal. I’ve drafted my pentalogy, and book one has had a revision. The rest is messy, but at least the main story is there for me to see its evolution.
Now I have my first standalone novel drafted. And it’s in pretty good shape for a first draft. Right now, I’m letting the revision ideas float around, updating my latest outline with more detailed notes. The entire structure is there ready to smooth out and decorate into a beautiful work of art. It WILL be a work of art when I am done with this story.
Here are some things to think about after your first draft.
Make detailed notes.
Whether you’ve had feedback or not, it’s always a good idea to make notes and update your outline. Add your changes and additions and POV swaps if you have multiple POVS. If you don’t do outlines, it’s still a good idea to make a list and tick them off as you go through them. I use the corkboard mode in Scrivener with the “to do” label for each chapter and its new synopsis, then change it to “done”. It’s really handy.
Now you know where your novel is going, you can drop little clues for the reader throughout the story so any surprises don’t come out of nowhere. Explaining or showing possibilities of the characters’ actions early on can really help with this.
This is connected to foreshadowing but goes beyond that. You need your readers to understand the aspects of your story for it to feel like a satisfying conclusion. If you leave things too vague, then when it all comes together, it won’t have the same impact. Set up the pieces in a way that the reader understands what each one does. Show it in actions, have characters say it in dialogue, or have the MC think it. Just don’t bore the readers with long narration telling them about it unless you have to.
Deus ex machina
If you’ve set everything up and foreshadowed well, this won’t be an issue. You have to avoid that sense of perfectly timed divine intervention just when the MC needs it. Build up to it gradually, show a little before. Keep it in the reader’s mind with casual mentions in between the more active reminders.
With any story, real or fictional, the whole idea is that the characters change somewhat throughout. It could be a minor change that leads to the characters being more open-minded to a big life change, or it could be that the book’s major change is the characters themselves. Either way, having seen where your character ends up, you can now go back and let the character change little by little.
It’s been ten months since I started writing Out of Ashes. I won’t deny that the inspiration for the storyline came from a place of pain and vengeance. But what prompted me to write it was a dream of fire and rebirth.
I don’t want to say more than that in case I spoil anything, but this story was incredibly personal to me, so to complete the draft with fantastic feedback was an amazing feeling. Now I can mould is, shape it an sculpt it into a work of art.
I’m open to self publishing, but I feel like I stand a good chance with traditional publishing based on the current market. I didn’t write my novel to fit the market or adhere to it, but circumstances in my story choice have coincided with what seems to be popular these days. How lucky is that?
I have to revise it, send it for beta readers, revise it again, maybe even again, and then I can think about whether it’s ready for publishing. This is all going to happen in time, and I don’t plan to put a deadline on anything. You can’t rush creativity. Also, nothing bad will happen if I don’t get it published this year. So cheers to the completed draft and its possibilities.
In life, we often wish we had the ability of hindsight. In writing, your first draft is your hindsight. Use it well, and rewrite that story to perfection.