My Novel Draft is Done! (Now What?)

Hi everyone,

In August, I talked about my progress in writing my urban fantasy novel and my plans to self-publish it by May 2020. At the time, I was at 46,000 words, and I was optimistic I’d get through my draft sometime in the fall, but I knew I’d need to carve out more time to focus on my writing.

Today, I am thrilled to be able to say I have already finished it! At 69,000 words, I have written my very first novel! I can’t believe it. (I’ve been doing happy dances all day.)

It helped me a lot to know that my alpha reader was patiently waiting to receive the final section of the manuscript after I’d mercilessly left her at a cliffhanger. (Sorry about that, Suzanne!)

For some reason, the last few chapters kept flowing—probably because there were exciting scenes for me to write, and I couldn’t wait to get into that desk chair so I could follow my characters to the final showdown.

Coming in at 69,000 words was also wonderful because I’d targeted for 70,000 words. So close! I’d like to have a final version that’s around 80,000, and that shouldn’t be a problem. One of my discoveries as I’ve gone through this process is that I write lean. Every time I tackle a new scene, I start with reviewing and editing the scene from my previous writing session, and every time I did this, I found I was adding more words rather than taking them away. This surprised me at first, because most of the writers I know tell me they have the opposite problem—they keep needing to cut things out. It turns out I have a tendency to focus on character, dialogue, and plot, while some of the nuances of setting and description are things I fill in later. (I know there will be some cutting during my self-edit, though—including all the flabby verbs and unnecessary words I have inevitably written. There’s a reason why Anne Lamott calls it the “shitty first draft” in her excellent book Bird by Bird.)

So…I’ve written a novel now. (And eaten some chocolate to celebrate, of course.) Now what?

It would be so lovely if writing a draft meant you were done. (Ha!) It’s only the beginning. I outlined this story fairly thoroughly, so I feel like it’s in relatively decent shape, but I want it to be the best I can make it rather than rushing it out the door. So I’m setting it aside for a little bit, and then I’m going to do some self-editing before sending it on to some beta readers sometime in November. I’ve already lined up a couple of folks who love the urban fantasy genre, but I’m hoping to get more readers, so I can get a broad set of opinions from my main target audience. I also have a sensitivity reader on board. My novel is set in a fictionalized Canadian lakeside town that’s modeled after the diverse communities I’ve lived in, and I want to make sure I’m doing a good job of representing some of the characters who have experiences that are different than mine.

Then it’s on to professional editing! One of the nice things about being a member of Editors Canada is that I already know a lot of super friendly, highly qualified editors, and I’ve already booked a stylistic/copy edit in February with someone I admire who edits a lot in this genre. I’ve also reached out to another of my fantastic colleagues (who is a Certified Professional Editor with the association) for final proofreading in April. The best editors have a tendency to get booked up, so I wanted to be sure to grab them early!

The other key action I’m working on is booking a cover designer, since it’s a critical aspect of a self-published book. It’s amazing to think about seeing my main character on a cover next year!

Is that all that’s left to do? Nope!

Sometime between now and when I publish, I’ll need to work out the logistical details, including setting up a publisher name, grabbing some ISBNs (which are free for Canadian publishers, hurrah!), figuring out distributors, and so on.

Oh, and I also need to settle on the final title!

Right now I’m not finding this intimidating at all. Well, except for maybe the title thing. (Although I may have changed my mind in a few months!) Instead, I’m looking forward to exploring the entire process and joining my indie clients and friends in self-publishing my work. I know this is the right approach for me, and I also think it will be a fantastic learning experience.

Thanks, everyone, for listening to me babble on about my book. I hope this summer has treated you well, and I wish you all the best on your personal projects, whatever they may be! I’ll be sure to keep you posted on how things are going as I get further along. (And if you happen to feel like beta reading an urban fantasy set in a small lakeside town that features a musician and her best friend, family challenges, quirky local characters, Buffy-like banter, and a ton of magical mayhem, then just drop me a line!)

Cheers,

Sue

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