Most people who are considering writing a novel believe the actual writing part is the hardest. They often lose motivation before even finishing the first draft. I don’t want to scare anyone, but the hardest part isn’t sitting down and churning words out. The real work comes in turning those words into a book people would want to read. No writer should show a first draft to anyone, maybe not even their spouse. The dog (or cat) should be fine. 😛
It’s kind of funny that I’ve never become discouraged from writing. Back in high school, I considered becoming an artist. I’m not bluffing. I gave up on that because finishing a painting or a drawing takes so freakin’ long. Now I write books…which takes even longer. In the average time a writer finishes a book (I estimate six months at the least), an artist could finish a dozen paintings/drawings. Talk about irony. I love writing books, but never really enjoyed painting.
The most time-consuming (not necessarily hard) part of writing a book is revising/editing it. You have to make sure that it becomes the best work you can produce. Having a bunch of silly errors could cost your readers’ trust. Here are some steps you can take to revise your book:
- Put your first draft aside after finishing it. Make sure not to look at it for two weeks to a month. That way, you’ll see the words with fresh eyes when you return to the book. It’ll allow you to see mistakes you may otherwise miss. And doing so could also spark new ideas.
- Always create a separate file for new drafts. For instance, copy Draft 1 before starting to revise it, and name the new file Draft 2. Once you complete a round of editing, copy Draft 2 and name the new file Draft 3. Revise it, and so on. That allows you to go back to an earlier draft if you don’t like some changes you may have made. It also gives you a way to prove you really did write the book, if proof is ever needed.
- Consider rewriting Draft 2 from scratch. Use Draft 1 as reference. You can have those two drafts open in separate windows, but don’t touch Draft 1. As an alternative, you can simply rewrite Draft 1 in place…after you’ve made a copy and renamed it Draft 2.
- Run the book through editing apps. There are two useful tools I’ve found for this purpose. The first is called Hemingway App. It runs from a Web site, so you don’t have to install anything new on your computer. Hemingway App lets you catch a lot of grammar and content mistakes that Microsoft Word (or whichever word processor you’re using) can’t. Another program I like is called Ginger. This is not an online app, so you do have to install it. It can integrate with Microsoft Word.
- Read your book on paper or on an e-reader. The idea is to read your book on a medium that is not a computer or tablet screen. Kindles and the like are close enough to paper, so they count. Reading on paper or Kindle is different enough that it’s almost like seeing the book with fresh eyes. This way, you can do a content edit and a light copy edit. Read your book front to back. Make sure to save deleted scenes. You should also consider changing the book’s font.
- Have the book read out loud. This is another good way to catch mistakes you may otherwise miss. They say two heads are better than one. I think this also applies to senses (sight and hearing). You can read your book to yourself, or have a person or your computer read it out loud. I’ve read dialogue that is so long it would have sounded absurd out loud.
- Wait at least two weeks before the final draft. After that, do a final pass before the manuscript goes into the formatting stage. That is when no more changes are made to the text.
With these editing tips, you can improve the quality of your writing significantly. If you decide to hire an editor afterward, they may find less work to do. That means you could save money. Anyway, remember what I said above about your first draft? It’s not for your editor, either! Giving them a manuscript so full of mistakes borders on cruel. That’s not what they’re there to do, anyway.