A guide to writing and publishing your first book (Part 5): Rewrite, Review, Edit and Proofread
This is the fifth part of a series of posts. To read previous parts, click the links below:
A guide to writing and publishing your first book (Part 1)
A guide to writing and publishing your first book (Part 2): Writing the Story
A guide to writing and publishing your first book (Part 3): Hooks and Bread Crumbs!
A guide to writing and publishing your first book (Part 4): Practical writing Tools & Tricks
Now your first draft is ready. It is rough. It has all the key elements of your story. Most importantly, you have "FINISHED" your story, so you should give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back!
Now it is time to rewrite your story.
We have focussed on writing a simple story, to get you started quickly on your writing journey. Now, even though we are keeping it simple, you want to follow the best process for producing a book or story of good quality. And for this, rewriting plays a major role.
Actually, rewriting your story is said to be the most important part of writing. It also tends to be the most time-consuming. Initially, you wanted to get a story that outlined all the key elements of your work. You were NOT to pay too much attention to details of the story, possible plot holes, or intricate sub-plots. When you do the REWRITE, it is time to pay attention to those details.
Let's look at how it may play out using an example from a story we outlined earlier.
Basically, what starts out as this:
There was a young alien from an unknown alien race of the Feeg Ment, a race of beings with large eyes. He was called Rai Tas Bloc. The Feeg Ment race lived on a planet shaped like an Ant Hill where fire shot periodically from the ground during fire spurts, their fiery equivalent of rain. Theirs was a dreaded planet called Wot Dah Hehk.
Could become this:
Rai Tas Bloc heard the sounds of running feet that always preceded what was coming. It was a warning sound that everyone on Dah Heck was now familiar with. First, there would be the mini-stampede as creatures above ground began their flight to escape what was coming. Next would be the uneasy sound of silence.
Underground and in the relative safety of their rocky homes, the rest of his race, the Feeg Ment would go about their lives as though nothing was happening. But whether they like to admit it or not, everyone dreaded what was to come. Their twin bulging eyes that sat atop stalk-like limbs on their heads would quiver, an indication that their sensitive bodies were beginning to feel the first initial tremors; it was also a sign of anxiety. And they had every right to be because what was coming, following the uneasy silence, was the dreaded sounds of a Fire Spurt...
Remember, what is critical at this point is providing the details needed to give more depth to the story, close plot holes, and provide explanations that would be valuable to the reader. And do not forget, you still need to make sure you have your Hooks and Bread Crumbs in the story. If you need a quick refresh, you can quickly the article on Writing Tips and Tricks - and the most important thing, AGAIN, is to finish.
And then you can take the next step
Here's where you are going to need someone else. It is not impossible to review your work yourself, but it is best that a fresh pair of eyes go through your work. It is also good to look for a professional that can do this for you and critique the work.
The purpose of the review is for a professional to:
Go through what you have written in its entirety.
Provide feedback on problems with the plot, the characters, the pacing, and other key elements of the story.
Provide feedback on the product-market fit, eg if you are writing a book for kids, but there are many gory details or adult themes, there will need to be some adjustment to the book or the target audience.
Provide feedback on elements that can affect sales when your book is finished.
Give you thumbs up for writing a flawless story that requires no improvement - in which case you should get a second opinion! There is ALWAYS room for improvement! 😁
It's important not to take critique personal; I must point out that this does not come naturally for first or second-time writers. You have poured out your heart, soul and time into getting out a story, and then you get a three-paged feedback or truckloads of highlights in your manuscript about all the things that suck!
Sorry, all the things that needed amendment...
Guess, what? The very fact that you have something to be critiqued already gives you a huge advantage over many who have not started out. It also means that adopting the feedback will make you a better author, as well as improve the chances of success for your book. So there is really a lot of good that comes from a critique of your work.
What if you have no money to hire a professional? You might have to enlist friends to review and provide feedback. And if this also proves impossible, meaning you have to do it yourself, take a few days (or weeks) off from writing and then come back to it with fresh eyes.
But ideally, you REALLY should get someone experienced to review and critique your book - if you really want it to be successful.
Then you EDIT.
Now that you have written, re-written, and gotten an objective critique of your work, it's time to edit. When you are editing at this stage, you want:
A smooth reading experience for your audience, so you need to focus on flow.
Removal of unnecessary words and details that add more of an "Umph" to your story than an "Oomph"
The work to feel polished.
Ideally, this should be a two-stage process. You edit the work based on feedback from the critique or review process - and then you pass it to a professional editor to add that finishing touch. Most professional writers outsource this. An author should be able to focus on the story, the characters, the plot, etc. But the final polish is often added by an Editor and done in collaboration with the author.
After editing, aimed at polishing the story, it is now time to get the work proofread. Thank goodness there is free software that helps with this - but this bit is also best done by yourself AND a professional. Trust me, few things are as BAD (BAD! BAD!!) as reading a book and running into typos, grammatical errors, problems with punctuation, and misspellings. It takes something away from you as an author, the story itself, and the brand you are trying to build. It also reduces the chances of a reader buying another body of work from you.
So this part is also extremely critical.
And when this is finished, my friend, you are now ready for the next big step.
We'll get into this in the next article!