Your Rough Draft is Finished…Now What?

done with novelYou’ve written a 50K plus novel.  It’s been a difficult road.  Perhaps you spent six months or six years, but it is finally done and you feel that sense of accomplishment that comes with completing such a monumental task.

Now what?

The following is my personal regimen that moves a rough draft to a finely polished, publishable document:

Proofing – I read through the novel at least three times, repairing grammar errors, looking for type-os, making sure all of the plot points and subplots have logical conclusions, and refining character elements to make sure they jibe with the rest of the story.  I also look for elements that didn’t work or that seem to take too long to develop and eliminate them.  If it can be cut without ruining the plot development, I drop that like it’s hot.

Beta Readers – Once I finish with the proofing I send it to my reliable beta readers.  I rely on a cadre of avid readers who are people who read science fiction, who read more than they watch television or do other things, and who can provide a reasonable criticism without being afraid to hurt my feelings.  I provide a set of questions for beta readers that they will answer either verbally or in writing when they finish the book.  These questions are as follows:

  • Did you have a favorite part of the novel?  If so, what was it and why?
  • Did you have a least favorite part of the novel?  If so, what was it and why?
  • Is there anything that needs to be added to the story that was not revealed in the plot or subplot?
  • Is there anything that needs to be cut from the story completely?
  • Finish this sentence: “This novel would be better if…”
  • Are the characters believable?  Are there any characters or character’s actions that are not believable?

Revision – This process happens after you have received the critique from the beta readers.  Listen carefully to your beta readers.  If you chose them well then they will be honest with you and you need to probably heed their advice.  Beta readers should critique from a reader’s perspective.  Spend about a week or so on this process, cutting the parts that need cut (usually the parts that don’t drive the story forward) and adding any information not discussed in the rough draft.

Editing – Hire someone to edit your document for errors.  When you revised the text you probably made some mistakes that need to be remedied.  A professional editor will find the errors that will make your novel hard to read.  Repair all of the errors and move to the next step.

Revision or Polish – Repair all of the errors that the editor found and then polish those sentences.  Sometimes after several readings you will discover better ways to phrase things, but make sure you don’t make the same mistakes you made that the editor found.

I usually read through my document another three to four times, but there comes a time when you need to simply stop and trust that what you’ve written is the best you have to offer a reader.

The first book in the Five Rims trilogy, The Terminarch Plot, is due out in a month.  This process will probably take that long at least.  I’m excited with the way the ending turned out, which leaves the reader wanting more but at the same time closes this volume’s story off nicely.

Published by Roger Colby, Novelist, Editor

Roger Colby is a novelist and teacher who has taught English for nearly two decades. He is also an avid reader of science fiction who feels, like many other sci-fi readers, that he has read everything. He writes science fiction for the reader who is looking for the next best thing, something to excite them into reading again. This blog is his journey as a writer and his musings about writing. He also edits manuscripts for a fee and is an expert at helping you reach your full potential as a writer.

10 thoughts on “Your Rough Draft is Finished…Now What?

    1. Life’s a process, Khan. We’re all on a learning curve. No one was born with the knowledge we have; we’ve gained it along the way, just like you have. That’s the beauty of blogging: we all get to share and learn together simultaneously, no matter where in the world or in the process we are.

    2. Khan, speaking of “beta readers,” is there anything on your own page that you’d particularly like some feedback on (or just especially invite me to read)?

      1. Thank you for the offer Erik, and I’d love to hear your feedback. I just recently posted the most recent part of my short story series, so feedback on any of those would be greatly appreciated. Is there anything of yours that you’d like me to take a look at? By the way, I thought ‘The Best Advice So Far’ was a very compelling title!

  1. Your point on carefully chosen beta readers is critical (and yet often overlooked or ignored for some reason). And I’m a pretty firm believer that, while your mom is allowed to read and comment, she probably shouldn’t be part of the beta group.

    Best to you with your upcoming book, Roger! How many books now?

    1. This will be my fourth book. It is first in a series of books that will probably end up being around three or four. I could write in this particular universe for a long time.

      1. Fantastic! My favorite reading from the time I was a kid has always been in series. Makes good characters last longer. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: