Check her editorial website: K. Johnson Editorial
And she's also an intern with Corvisiero Literary Agency
What To Do When You Finish That First Draft
It’s done. You sit back, suck in a huge breath, and almost forget to let it out as you type those final two words: THE END. And that’s it right? Time to research those literary agents, make a list of publishers you love, pour one (or four) glasses of wine. Right?
Yes, if it was a perfect world. Thankfully for us writers, our world is anything but perfect. And that goes double for your manuscript. So, what are the first steps to follow once that first draft is done?
- Put your hands up and back away from the computer! No, really, I’m not kidding. Even before you send it out to beta readers or critique partners, let that baby stew for a while. Why? Because I’m sure you’ve already read passages from this draft about five hundred times. You probably have certain scenes imprinted to the back of your eyelids. But first drafts are messy and complicated and full of errors—spelling and punctuation being a HUGE part of that. Even though I know you’re dying to send that beauty along to your peers, you should still make sure they’re getting at least a partially cleaned work. It’s not only industry professionals who should get that compliment.
- Now comes the beta reader phase. Once you’ve ensured all your “their, there, and they’re” typos are corrected, you can turn to those writers and readers whose input you value highest. I don’t care what anyone else says, writers are NOTHING without critique partners. Sometimes it takes a fresh set of eyes and an unbiased brain to catch a manuscript’s failings.
- Relax. Don’t sit and stew and worry and panic while your words are in the hands of others. Read a book you put aside for more writing time. Watch a movie. Schedule a night out with friends who probably haven’t seen you since you disappeared into your writing cave. Do whatever you can to forget about your story a little while. Because forgetting about it means you’ll be ready to accept feedback once it hits your inbox.
- Once you get that feedback, it’s like getting an R&R (revise and resubmit) from an agent. Take in the advice, decide what you agree with, what you don’t agree with, and then take another look at what you don’t agree with to make sure it’s not just a case of text obsession. “Kill Your Darlings” didn’t become famous for nothing. Then it’s time for…you’ve guessed it…another draft! Use the invaluable feedback your readers have given you and bring a whole new you to that manuscript.
- Once finished, send it to one or two of those readers for another pass. This is to ensure your additions (or deletions!) had the desired effect and your book is stronger than the last time they read it.
- Do yourself and every single agent a favor and trudge through one final sweep strictly for line edits. These are things like spelling, punctuation, consistency, structure, etc. It’s for all those little things a reader will pinpoint while sprawled on the couch with your book clutched between their fingers. Your story might be the most amazing thing created this century, but a writer is only as skilled as their pages. Typos and errors make you look lazy. I don’t think you spent months of solitary confinement to be remembered as lazy.
You know the rest. Research your agents, make sure you know what they represent (personalize that query letter!), and send out a few queries once every three weeks. Submitting to a landslide of agents all at the same time only harms your chances. You want time between submissions in case some ask for edits, page samples, or even if some volunteer as judges in future writing competitions you might enter.
This is your story. Your name on that title page. Do the work and take the time to make sure you’d be proud to represent it.
-- Kaitlyn Johnson
K. Johnson Editorial
Corvisiero Literary Agency