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So you've got your first draft. CONGRATS! You're automatically better than 99% of other people who attempted to write a novel and never finished. :)

Now what?

1. CELEBRATE! Throw yourself a completion party. Get some friends and try to make them celebrate with you. Dance around them while they give you strange looks. This is YOUR party. You earned it. Live it.

2. Now don't start editing Draft 2 immediately. Go do something else for a while. I'd say give it at least a month or two. Professional writers usually have deadlines, so they don't have the luxury of a few months to get the story out of their mind, but they take at least a few days off where they don't give a single thought to the story. You really need this if you want to edit well. You need to essentially forget what happens so you can read with a fresh pair of eyes, as if you've never read this story again. Try this with something you wrote years ago, and you'll be shocked you wrote that.

Do anything other than work on the story. Start a new story if you want, but don't give a single thought to the one you just finished.

3. When you're ready to start revisions (and let's face it, it's going to be full-on rewrite. Don't kid yourself. Your first draft sucked. It really did), take a deep breath and find your happy place. It's going to be a rocky ride from here on out.

4. It's time to read the entire story front to back. Many writers advise printing out the manuscript and reading on a hard copy. I am one of them. I read through on the screen and found almost nothing to correct, and when I printed it out, suddenly the page was full of red marks.

Do not stop to rewrite. DO NOT STOP TO REWRITE. DO. NOT. STOP. TO. REWRITE. Resist the urge.

Pull out a fresh notebook or whip out the sticky notes to make notes to yourself, but do not physically edit or change the text you are reading just yet. Once you start, you'll get stuck editing the same passage for days and you'll never get through the first read-through.

It's vital that you read the whole manuscript through as fast as you can to get the overall picture of the story in your head. You have to see the big picture rather than focus on tiny line edits and details that will get the story nowhere. The second draft is all about heavy rewrites, so don't focus on the details at all since you're likely going to throw out 90% of what you wrote anyway. And that's an unfortunate truth. I didn't want to believe it, but once I started editing... yeah basically 80-90% of the draft is going to be changed from the original by the time I'm done with it. And that's with Guardian Redemption, which I was immensely proud of upon completing the first draft. I have other first drafts sitting in my writing folder that are wildly worse and will require even more heavy rewrites. *screams in terror*

So don't disillusion yourself into thinking your story is perfect or even really good right now. You might have some fantastic ideas, but the first draft is not where those ideas are even remotely portrayed to their greatest potential. You have to believe you can do better. I believe you can do better! :)

Okay, now you're armed with a notebook, sticky notes, or whatever you're using to take notes. What are you taking notes on? Great question!

I'll give examples for Guardian Redemption. Only after I finished the first draft did I find out that the social dynamics were all off. The non-mages living in the slums should fear magic, especially the invisible dark magic, and yet they were all happy and encouraging to the mages. Nope. So I made note of that in my revisions list.

Here's some more of my notes:

    • Make Cleon and Raeth more soldier-like with automatic habits drilled into them and other military quirks.
    • Add Kairi's maids/Cleon's servants
    *****Kairi learns to see worth in non-mages. Cleon learns to embrace magic.*****
>>When Lisel's saving Raeth, have her do it with strategy, not magic.
>>Make Naraik more prominent. More political involvement. make Naraik a woman. Moral compass and mentor for Kairi on magic theory.
>>Don't kill off Lisel.
>>More Lisel backstory of why she became a prostitute. Little sister??
>>Castle description
>>Describe progression of Kai's dark magic abilities more before Ch 9 -- show her practicing more.
>>Rewrite 2nd time Behemoth comes out: Cleon's getting bullied by the mages, transforms and kills one. Joren and Kairi make it look like an accident and don't tell Cle. Joren has to almost kill Cleon to subdue Behemoth
>>At Ghazar Festival ceremony, Raeth spots Wesgaran Emperor, freaks, and almost blows his cover.

So it's like plot, characterization, world building, politics, backstories. Absolutely don't work on line edits right now. Don't fix typos or bad sentence structures. Focus on bigger things. ^That isn't an exhaustive list. I have like 40+ pages of notes and critiques from others, if that gives you any idea.

5. Now that you read through and have your notes, time to start implementing them!

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