If you’ve never written a book before completing your first draft it feels a bit like reaching the top of Mt Everest. It’s no doubt taken a huge amount of planning, training and persistence to get there and now you’re at the top (finished your first draft), you want to savour the moment.
But, just like getting to the top of Mt Everest (minus altitude sickness, traffic jams and the ever present fear of death) finishing your first draft is only half the challenge.
The 7 steps from first draft to final draft
The next steps, and there are several, can be just as challenging so I want to share them with you so you’re aware in advance of what you need to do.
Celebrate completing your first draft
1. When you’ve finished your first draft do take time to sit back and recognise that this is a significant achievement.
Over 80% of business people say they want to write a book and only 1% actually do, so you’re in the company of a select group of people.
Even less keep going and publish their book.
Take a break
2. Take a couple of weeks off from working on your book (you could start looking at planning the production, marketing and promotion of it).
Creating mental space away from your manuscript will help you have a fresh set of eyes on it for when you revise it.
Read your draft all the way through
3. After a couple of weeks, open up your manuscript (better still print it out) and read it all the way through. Mark-up comments and corrections as you go through. Resist the urge to rewrite anything at this stage. Just read the whole thing.
The reason for this is that you need to see how the whole manuscript flows and if you get into rewriting it before you’ve read through it all, you could well put yourself on a never-ending cycle of rewriting.
Revise your first draft
4. Once you’ve read through the whole manuscript go back and revise it.
Seek feedback from others
5. Repeat steps 2 to 4 at least one more time.
At this point you might want to share your draft with some close colleagues or someone you know in your field and seek their input. If you do this be specific about what feedback you are looking for, the timeframe for the feedback and how you want to receive it. The worst feedback of all is ‘Yeah, I think it’s OK/good.’
You’re looking for constructive and detailed feedback in order to improve your manuscript.
Revise based on feedback
6. Once you’ve received feedback from 1, 2 or 3 people review it all and decide what you’re going to action or not. You don’t have to action all the feedback so it’s worthwhile waiting till you have it all and reviewing it, so that you only revise the manuscript once.
Revising is normal
7. So you’re now on your 3rd or 4th revision. That’s normal. Most manuscripts I write go through at least 3 or 4 versions, sometimes more.
The final draft . . . then more
Once you’re satisfied with your manuscript you can now say you have a FINAL DRAFT.
Yes, I know you were thinking that you have a final manuscript at this point, but there’s still more to come (and I’ll talk about this in my next post), maybe editing and definitely proofreading. In other words, more revisions.
Another thing to be aware of in the revision stage is that this can take 1-3 months, so make sure you allow yourself time for this part of the process.
Words on the printed page last a long time, so you want them to be as interesting, accurate and precise as possible.
Plus you don’t want spelling mistakes, typos or bad grammar, these errors really annoy people and detract from the readers experience.
Happy revising. Now back to revising one of my own mansuscripts!