by Julia Buckley
Hurrah! Yes, it's always exciting to pound my way through to that final scene and to finish a first draft. Now, of course, the big work begins.
The first draft is capricious, almost an indulgence. I follow my whims about characters and their actions and their dialogue, and I let the plot lead me.
After the first draft, (and starting tomorrow), I need to take these steps:
1. A big read-through. I study the draft from beginning to end, looking for continuity errors or awkward phrasing. Knowing the ending, I will find some holes in the plot and look for ways to repair them.
2. Once I feel that I've patched up any obvious errors and smoothed out the uneven diction, I will bring the manuscript to my writers' group. Right now we are a tight group of four, familiar with each other's writing and with the weaknesses we've worked to eradicate over the years. This group helps me spot errors I never would have seen, and they give me a general sense of how the public might receive a book. Are the characters likable? Is the plot believable? Is the pacing exciting enough? My group will give me excellent feedback, and this will take me back to the revision table.
3. While I'm revising, I'll determine whether or not I need to plant a couple more clues or give a background character more lines. Often when I'm writing I fall in love with a character who was supposed to be peripheral, and he or she will suddenly move to the forefront. This happened in my latest book, as well.
4. Once I take those steps, I'll run the draft past my agent. Her comments will help me to revise and polish even more before I have to turn the book in to my publisher (a deadline still six months away, but very much on my mind!)
5. In the interim, I'll be working on Book Two, trying to keep the momentum while the story of book one is still fresh in my mind.
As all you writers out there know, writing must be a daily task, and sometimes it can feel monotonous. But after all these years of writing, I don't think I could keep away from writing for very long. My mind is always providing me with fresh ideas for stories, and when those ideas are flowing, it's about as close to writing paradise as I can imagine.