Your Rough Draft is Finished…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.