Put your novel away & stop writing

You’ve just finished writing your novel. Now what? Get drunk. Get sober. Leave the house. Whatever you do, stop writing.

Lock that piece of shit in a drawer and forget about it for a few weeks/months/years/ever.

The first feedback you need is your own, but at this point you’re too close to read your work objectively. So walk away. Run away. Screaming, preferably.

It’s necessary to get some distance and clarity. No one’s expecting you to get dressed, but maybe put a dressing gown on at least. Maybe order a White Russian.

Use the downtime to read fiction in the same genre as your novel, or even better, immerse yourself in something completely different.

Read non-fiction, newspapers, tweets. Start a band. Start a drug. I spent the four months between first and second draft of my current project building a social media ecosystem for my nonsense talk. But fuck me and my plans.

Once you’ve had a decent break, pick up your novel and a pen and do an objective read, by which I mean slaughter that bloated crap-fest like a retreating native. 

Be ruthless. The old editor’s saying is “kill your children” for a reason - you need to cut out words like you’re a unhinged drug addicted mother drowning her babies in a tub. Except, you know, with feelings.

Check your structure. Pull it apart chapter-by-chapter, paragraph-by-paragraph, line-by-grammar-defying-line. Does it need to be there? Is it in the right place? Can you say the exact same thing with far fewer words?

The answer to that last question is invariably yes, so cut some fucking words out and stop giggling at your own cleverness you self-congratulatory prick. (Harsh, but fair).

Less is more. Choose your words wisely. If you’ve spent ten pages describing the grass, fuck you.

Once you’ve had another pass at it, the next step is to have someone read it for you. There are several ways to do this;

Friends. You can ask your friends, if you have them, to read your novel. I wouldn’t recommend it. Your friends are assholes waiting to happen, and have absolutely no fucking idea what they’re talking about. 

Join a writers group. Use Meetup.com to find other writers in your area. Find writers of a similar level and experience to trade feedback with. Critiquing other abominations will make you a better writer.

Record a reading. Gather a group of friends and assign one as the narrator, and divide parts between the others. If it’s a first person story, read it into a dictaphone, and play it back. 

You’ll be surprised at how fucking terrible the words will sound being read back to you. 

Take on the feedback, draft some more, repeat the process. Drafting and editing takes time. Try and rush and you risk being rejected. You know, even more than usual.

As author Nathan Farrugia said in his recent Momentum blog post about editing, your novel needs to be 99% ready by the time it lands on the publisher’s desk.

As eager as you are for the world to read your work right now, a little patience is prudent.

And if you haven’t got any patience, then at least have a little self-respect. The world already thinks you’re an asshole for even trying to write. Don’t give them fuel.

Got any second draft tips to share? Offended by anything you’ve read here? Leave a comment!

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