Tag Archives: writing a first draft

#MondayBlogs What Changes From First Draft to Publication?

16 May

What changes from first draft to publication? So much. In fact, nearly everything. But if the answer was that simple, an entire article (or even whole books on the topic) wouldn’t be necessary, so there’s more to this answer than it seems. Despite that, I insist you take my article with a grain of salt. In the end, everyone’s writing method is different, so everyone’s editing process will be fine-tuned to fit that particular project. Figuring out what works for you and what needs to be done is key, but I wanted to discuss a few topics that almost always change for everyone, so you can prepare yourself for the battle ahead. (It’s a fun battle, I promise.)

1. Word Count

Please, please, please be open to changing your word count. This is especially true for those writers pursuing traditional publication. For every genre, for every age group, there is a “perfect” word count range you’re basically expected to fall into when querying or pitching. Yes, there are exceptions. You might even become the exception during an editing process, but knowing how long or short your story should be shows your knowledge for the market and for what’s appropriate for your audience. That being said, I’m going to contradict myself and say it’s better to be true to the story than to fit a standard, but keep an open mind when rereading your work to see if you can fit the standard. Maybe a scene isn’t necessary. Maybe two scenes can be combined. You might even find yourself contemplating a cut of your favorite scenes or characters, and sometimes, that’s necessary. Keep it in a folder. Share it as an extra on Wattpad later. But making sure everything is vital is one of those tricky but true things a writer must overcome. I struggle with this myself! Almost all of my novels’ first drafts are 130,000 words, but I quickly figure out a lot of it was repetitive information or information not needed for a storyline. I might save it for a sequel or condense it somewhere else, but I tend to find reaching those ideal word counts isn’t that hard as long as I allow myself to let things go and move on. Letting go can be difficult though, so to help you with that, I suggest you read The Disposability of Ideas by Maggie Stiefvater. She is the author of The Raven Cycle and a mad genius when it comes to letting things go, even when you don’t want to.

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2. Characters

Names. Descriptions. Backgrounds. Even their existence might change. Oftentimes, writers will find that two characters in a draft can be combined to serve one purpose, or visa versa (one character could become two). Publishers are notorious for changing names—especially of protagonists—but I always suggest writers face this problem themselves before submitting. Don’t count on publishers choosing the perfect name, and try not to get attached in case they do change it in the end. I personally like to take notes of a characters’ background while also keeping a list of other names used in the story. This way, I make sure I’m using different types of names, including the first letter, the syllable count, the sound, etc.—all while staying true to their background as a person. As an editor, I receive a lot of manuscripts where all 20-some characters have similar sounding names, and unless that serves a purpose (like twins named closely together), it can get really confusing really fast. Of course, names is a shallow example of what can be changed, but I think it’s a good one since many writers get very attached to names quickly…and I’m about to expand on characters a little more in my last topic.

3. Major Changes and Rewrites

In the end, your plot, purpose, genre, or even cast could change completely. I, for one, just finished a manuscript that started off as a 62,000-word draft and ended up being a 92,000-word novel. Why? Because I was missing that much information the first time around. I wasn’t sure about my setting, I didn’t know my characters THAT well, and the secrets didn’t reveal themselves until the end. On top of that, I’m a plotter, not a pantser, so this was a painful book for me, but I followed my gut and did what I could and then, I faced my rewrites head-on. Let me use characters as an example for how much could change overall. A character’s gender, sexual orientation, secrets, lifestyle, background, and mindset could change simply because you didn’t TRULY know that character when you first set out to write the book (even though you thought you did). I recall Cassandra Clare discussing this at a panel I attended recently. For those of who are familiar with The Mortal Instrument series, she actually didn’t plan the big twist about Jace at the end, and she simply couldn’t understand why he acted the way he did for over 700 pages of the first draft. It wasn’t until she got there that she learned that vital aspect about his life, and so, naturally, she had to go back and rewrite the entire story to make his character real again. Don’t shy away from the right change, even if that change demands an entire rewrite. That change could be what makes your book.

The first draft is only the beginning, but that fact doesn’t have to be a scary thing. It can be an amazing thing. All writers go through it, and all writers come out of each stage happier than they were in the previous stages. Rewriting that 62,000-word draft I discussed above, for instance, was one of the best projects I’ve ever worked on. When it finally began to take shape, I was satisfied and proud of the work. Before I rewrote it, it simply sat on my computer collecting technology dust. Think of editing and rewriting as another writing adventure—one that will take you one step closer to publication—and what could be better than that?

Original posted March 20, 2014.

(On a side note, the original is VERY different than this article. I actually focused on a real novel of mine, so if you want to see a detailed account of what I went through with one novel, this is a great article to read.)

~SAT

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November Rain, Part One, releases July 18, 2016

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November Snow, Part Two, releases July 25, 2016

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#WW Top 5 Tips I Gave Out This Year as an Editor And Marketer

16 Dec

As 2015 is coming to an end, I’m reviewing all of the authors and writers and publishers I’ve been able to work with over these past 12 months, and I’m blown away by the many talented artists I’ve met. I’m proud to say we saw over a dozen novels to publication, and even more are on their way. It’s been a great year! So, to celebrate, I thought I would share some of the top tips that came out during this time. A lot of these tips you can find online. In fact, a lot of these tips I’ve written articles about before on this very website. But it can be said again. After all, there are always new writers, new authors, and new ideas to implement when adjusting your business plan. In 2015, I learned some myself, and I helped numerous clients learn some too. Here were the top five from this past year.

1. Writing: Take Notes! This particularly helps when editing rolls around and you need to fact check, but I strongly believe every writer should take notes before, during, and after writing a first draft. It will help you organize your work, and it will help you keep track of changes you’ve made or new turns you’ve taken. These notes can cover larger concepts—like subplots—and they can define the simplest details—like eye color. Sure, a content editor is here to help you, but it’s always best to try to keep everything as factual as you can beforehand. Having the strongest draft possible will ensure you’ll have the strongest product possible at the end of your editing stages.

2. Marketing: Branding: Be you. Branding is vital and highly competitive, but it doesn’t have to be! Remember: You are not competing with others. They are them; you are you. And you are the only “you” out there. Be proud of that! I hear the phrase “but they did this” way too often. Just because someone else is doing something doesn’t mean you should or that it will even work for you.

A. It’s already being done.

B. It might not correlate with your books.

C. If you force it, people can tell. (It’s especially awkward when readers start to figure out who exactly you’re copying.)

Ex. Romance Author A loves reading lifestyle books, healthy eating, and yoga, so she uploads these three things to her pages with appropriate hashtags and related links, sometimes drawing a correlation that being healthy is part of her protagonists’ struggles and/or dreams. Now, Romance Author B. She sees this successful social media outreach and decides to do it too, even though she might not be into those things, nor does it have anything to do with the types of books she writes. (Not that everything has to do with your books, but we’ll get to that in a minute.) Think about what you love, think about what your customers and you could love together, and share those lovable things. People with similar interests will find you and your books.

3. Marketing: Branding: Now that you’re you, be PARTS of you. What do I mean by that? I often see authors and publishers trying to be TOO much. Have some consistency. Choose three to four things you’re really into and mainly post about those things. Of course you can post about whatever you want, but it helps to pick a brand and stick with it. Ex. I post about my cats, coffee, and books I’m reading. I recently added desserts, but I started only sharing desserts that went with coffee. (I slowly worked it in.) On occasion, if I travel, I post some photos, but I’m also really into movies and photography and conspiracy theories and aliens and etc. Sure, I’ll talk about those things every now and then, but if I did it all the time, no one would know what to expect or why they were even following me. I picked a theme, and I stick with it. I even have followers who just follow me because of my cats or followers who just love getting recipes from me. Stop worrying about selling. It’s not about selling. (Ouch, I know.) But it’s true. It’s about genuine connections. Have fun. A great topic I see authors work with is similar books, movies, and fandoms. But there is a thing as “posting too much.” You can overwhelm followers. Plus, you don’t need to be online all the time. You need writing time too.

BONUS TIP

Take a Little Extra Time to Make Things Just *That* Much Better

The photo on the left is the one I posted to Instagram, Twitter, and FB. The photo on the right is the real deal. 30 seconds can make a HUGE difference. Take that extra step. In this instance, I just cropped and added a filter through Instagram.

PicMonkey Collage

4. Editing: Track Stylistic Choices: Editing is often a matter of preference. While some rules are definitely not debatable, many aspects of the English language are. There is more than one correct way to write something, even when using the same rulebook, and it’s important to understand your options and to communicate those options with your editor. Keep track of your stylistic choices. Do you prefer t-shirt to T-shirt? Do you want to use “goodbye” instead of “good-bye”? Do you want to use the new “internet” or the proper “Internet”? Write these down or have your editor keep a stylistic sheet for you. I know I do this for every single one of my clients, especially if the book is part of a series. You want to remain consistent and pick what it best for that particular novel. As a reader, I HATE it when I see “t-shirt” and “T-shirt” on the same page. Granted, I’m an editor, so I’m probably more sensitive than others, but many avid readers know the basics of editing. Consistency is always the key.

5. Marketing: Positivity: Writing is hard. Marketing is hard. Editing is hard. I get it. Trust me. I do. I’ve been doing this for eight years and it’s still hard. I still learn every day, and sometimes, right after I learn something, the algorithms change, and I have to learn everything all over again. It’s tiring, time-consuming, and a never-ending battle. But try to enjoy it. Try to find the fun in it all. Try to love the little amazing moments more than you dwell on the big bad moments. But, most importantly, remain as positive as you can on your professional pages. Don’t get me wrong. It’s okay to be human. I’ve posted about depression before when I lost my publisher at the time. But I was still hopeful and ready to move forward. No one thinks you’re perfect, and you don’t have to pretend to be perfect, but posting curse-filled rants of drama isn’t going to do anyone any favors. A rule I stand by is to think twice before you post something while feeling emotional. Then, step away and think again. Once posted, it can never be deleted forever. Overall, the more you practice positivity—whether inwardly or outwardly—the less you’ll feel drained and/or overwhelmed. The more you’ll enjoy it. You want your pages to be a safe and happy environment for you and your connections. Have a zero-tolerance policy for bullies and trolls, and stay focused on having a great time with your readers.  

I hope you’ve enjoyed these five tips! If you have some, feel free to share! Let’s end 2015 on a great note, so we can start 2016 on an even better one.

~SAT

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