Draft Done, Now What?

Our guest today is author Rolynn Anderson, author of 10 published novels in the contemporary/mystery genres. They’re all page-turners, so if you haven’t yet read her, start today! She’s here to talk about what she does after she’s at her novel’s draft-done stage. Sage advice for all writers.

Author Rolynn Anderson

The song “You’ve Only Just Begun,” comes to mind at the ‘draft-done’ stage in my writing process. Sure, I might pour a glass of wine to celebrate and tell my husband it’s a Draft-Done Dinner-Out Night, but forget about champagne corks popping in a restaurant with linens. After a glass of everyday Chardonnay, I strap on my humble belt, don a thick skin, and gird my loins like a Roman warrior. The battle has only begun.

I’ve written about fifteen contemporary mystery/suspense novels since 2001, publishing ten of them. I wish I could say I’ve streamlined my efforts and with each book, the draft-to-final process grows easier. It could be I expect more of myself with each story, complicating the after-draft steps. I like to think I’m improving as a writer, so perhaps smooth sailing won’t ever happen. The point remains: my next steps are an agonizing fight to the finish.

First, I determine a deadline for turning over my draft to my three book club members. I publish a book a year, requiring me to keep my eye on the calendar. Spurred by the clock, I polish the novel in about five focused run-throughs, roughly in the following order after I print out the text:

1.  Polish diction

2.  Scene by scene, revise for GMC (goal, motivation and conflict)

3.  Character drill-down (focus on individualizing looks, dress, way of speaking, gestures, personality, and what others say about each character.)

4.  Dialogue tuning

5.  Plot analysis (for tension/page-turning qualities) I pay special attention to avoid the sagging middle)

Next, I hand out print copies to my three book club members, women who are experts in responding to novels of all kinds. Three weeks, we gather. As the three of them talk about my novel, I listen and take notes, only writing down what they say and not interacting with them at all. This tactic allows them to react to my book freely. At the end, I might ask a few clarifying questions, but I don’t try to explain myself or critique their responses. I have pages and pages of precious notes to help me revise my novel: that’s their gift to me.  

Third, I rework all the aspects of the novel that I choose to ‘fix,’ based on what I heard from my critical friends as well as what I didn’t hear from them. In another three weeks, I have another draft to polish (five more focused run-throughs). At this point, I’ve arranged a date for my editor to read my manuscript and settled on what I’ll be paying her (based on word count).  

Fourth, I analyze my novel for freshness, eliminating/replacing repetitive words and phrases, and sharpening the use of senses throughout.  To name a few of my nemesis words: that, look, turned, pushed, pulled, nodded, still, just, gazed, glanced, breath, smile, shook, eyebrow, fingers, palm; pulled in a breath, shook his head, held up his hand. You get the drift.

When I’ve completed this stage, I will revise the blurb of the novel (because the story has changed!). Then I’ll read through the novel one more time, printed off in a new font. More polishing after that.  

Now I’m ready to send my draft to my editor, signaling my work on this novel is only half finished. Can you believe it? Only half done! Typically, I will spend as much time making changes suggested/implied by my editor as I have spent so far on my book. I include a final round with my beta readers, followed by a last quick polishing. 

Next…to the formatter/publisher. Even at the stage of reviewing my formatter’s work, I’ll find a few more mistakes, some made by the formatter, some by me. 

Finally, I’m ready to publish!

So here’s my tenth novel, WHEN MOUNTAINS FALL:

Running a marina in isolated Waka Bay, British Columbia was her husband’s dream, not hers. But now he’s dead and a prime suspect in a murder.

Shattered by grief, Camryn Hudson must return to the bay to exonerate her husband, protect her seven-year-old son, and save a failing business.

Loner Finn Weber’s mission seems equally impossible. He left a top job in Seattle to work in tiny Port McNeill. Fulfilling a bargain with his ailing mother, he must sail to Waka Bay every weekend. He never imagined the danger of cruising into Camryn’s heart while withholding a family secret.

A killer roams the land and vultures demand possession of the marina. Can Camryn solve a crime and survive in Waka Bay?

Web and Blog: www.rolynnanderson.com

Facebook page: www.facebook.com/pages/Rolynn-Anderson/188767867821613

Twitter: www.twitter.com/rolynnanderson

Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/author/show/4990049.Rolynn_Anderson

Thank you, Rolynn, for some very sage advice on what to do once we reach the “draft-done” state in our writing. It’s a lot of work, but well worth it! And thanks for being here on my site, SusanTuttleWrites.com!

About Susan Tuttle

Susan Tuttle is a professional freelance editor, writing instructor and multi-award winning author of 21 books—6 nonfiction on writing (Write It Right), 6 suspense novels and 7 collections of award-winning short stories. She also has stories in both volumes of "Deadlines", the new anthology from the Central Coast Chapter of Sisters in Crime (SinC), Tales from a Rocky Coast, and the SLO NightWriter anthology. Under the pen name Susan Grace O'Neill, she is the author of the Journey With Jesus series: Lord, Let Me Grow (Parables) vol. 1, and Lord, Let Me Walk (Lent). She is currently working on volume #2 of her Skylark P.I. series (a PI with paranormal abilities), as well as 2 YA fantasy series. And she teaches fiction writing in both the morning and afternoon every Wednesday. Email her if you're interested in joining her class. And follow her on Twitter and FaceBook.