Monday 17 June 2019

What Comes After The End - The After Process


Last week I talked about writing the end (piece found here) and as promised, this week I'm going to talk about what comes after you've written those two words (or four hash symbols in my case). A lot of the time people think that when you write those words, when you finish your first draft, then all the hard work is done! You can lean back, relax and wait for those royalty checks to start rolling in! Right?

Wrong! While there is a massive relief when you get to the end of the first draft, the hard work is still in progress. You still have revision, then edits, then more edits, rewrites and all that goes with it. Depending on whether you're going indie or traditional, there's even more hoops to jump through before you can call this baby done. And a lot of that is going to be very apparent to you even as you write those final words. I have a whole section on the after process, you know all this stuff, and if you don't, I suggest you do some serious research and reading.

But that's not what I want to talk about today. I want to talk about that period after writing the end before you jump into doing anything with your draft. So many people seem to think that you need to hop from one stage to the next and it's possible for some people sure, but I personally advise against it and here's why.

You have spent the last x amount of time, from months to years, to longer, working on this draft. You know it inside out and you have poured actual blood, sweat and tears into it. And now it's done, but you know the hard work is only just starting and you want to jump right in, page one, and start your revisions. And that's not the best idea. It might be that you're one of those writers who can do that. I'm not. I put my first draft away for at least a year before I start working on it again.

Now I know that for some of you a year is going to be like: WHAT? Why? I can do that because I have so many books in progress and finished to some degree that I'm always going to have another project lined up, or an editing process starting on one that's been sitting for a while. So for the purpose of this piece, and given that most people aren't like me, I'll say a month at least. The answer is simple: you are still too close to this work to properly look at it with the editing lens on.

You need some distance to be able to look at your work objectively. It doesn't matter what you do during that month, if you take the time to start another project, or work on building up your author platform, or narrowing down which publishing path you choose to go down. That's irrelevant, but if you are looking to spend less time going over your mistakes, then it is better to put distance between you and your draft before you go back to it. It allows for the facts to change in your mind, allows you to look back at the story with fresh eyes and decide if this scene here needs to be there or if it works without it. All of the stuff that comes along with the after process needs to be done with some degree of objectivity and you can't do that fresh off finishing your draft. It just doesn't work that way.

So, like I said, celebrate that you've reached the end, put the draft somewhere you won't be looking at it, work on something else, get your distance, and then go back and revise and edit. You will be thanking yourself later and your book will be better for it. That's all there is to it!

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