In my May 6, 2019 blog post, https://janetswritingblog.com/2019/05/06/the-only-book-i-read-in-april-2019/, I announced the completion of the first rough draft of my rewrite of The Doubloon. Then I made the following statement: “The hard work lies ahead.” What did I mean by that?
I meant it was time to take all the steps it takes to get a novel published. There are many additional steps. I am, no doubt, blissfully unaware of some of them. Today I’ve listed many of the individual things that need to be done when polishing a novel manuscript. I’m sharing it here in case it will help someone else who is just starting out.
Steps to polish a novel manuscript
Most of the items I list below apply no matter what genre your novel is, but several of them are specific to writing historical fiction. Photo by Kaitlyn Baker on Unsplash
I don’t have all the answers. In fact, I have more questions than answers, but I’m learning every step of the way.
Things I’ve done since last Monday’s blog post include the following:
- Moved the inciting event from page 45 to page 28 and made necessary scene adjustments due to that change in timing;
- Changed several character’s surnames so they won’t be mistaken for persons who lived in The Waxhaws, the Rocky River Settlement, and Salisbury in the 1760s;
What’s left to do? Plenty! I need to:
- Read entire manuscript aloud to make sure it flows naturally, makes sense, has the right amount of backstory, doesn’t have information dumps, and doesn’t have plot holes;
- Reading or Listening? With what I recently learned about the difference in reading a book and listening to a book, I need to look at the hook and scene and chapter beginnings to see if they work well for the book listener; (See my May 13, 2019 blog post: https://janetswritingblog.com/2019/05/13/how-listening-to-a-book-and-reading-a-book-differ/.)
- Characterization: Are the characters distinguishable, what are their motives, and are their arcs in the right places?
- Check Point-of-View in every scene;
- Tweak Scene Plot Outline;
- Consider hiring a Scene Outline Critiquer;
- Take professional editor’s recommendation into consideration and make those changes;
- Authentic Details: Add details where needed to make sure the reader will feel like they are in The Waxhaws, the Rocky River Settlement, and Salisbury in 1769-1770;
- Backstory: Have I included just enough, too little, or too much?
- Dialogue: Have I used words not in usage in 1769?
- Narrative and Dialogue: Have I used any words too often?
- Fine tune every sentence, paragraph, scene, and chapter, checking for things like cause and effect, strong verbs; use of passive voice; character act first, then speak; and the overuse of adverbs;
- Check spelling;
- Check all punctuation — the most difficult task for me; and
- Read through the novel aloud again. Have I told a good story?
After I do everything I can
After I do everything I can do to make the manuscript the best it can be, there is still hard work to be done. I’ll list some of those in a blog post seven or eight months from now. I’ll know more from experience by then.
I need to continue to build my writer’s platform. That’s one thing this blog is doing for me. Along the way, I hope my blog readers will discern the kind of writer I am.
The road to publication
It is daunting road that lies ahead and there will probably be some potholes and detours along the way. I’ve worked on this historical novel manuscript for something like 15 years. I’ve lost track of time and can’t say with certainty when I started working on it.
Until recently, I referred to it as The Spanish Coin. In an effort to give it a two-word title, I changed the working title to The Doubloon. If I’m fortunate to get it published by a publisher, as opposed to myself, I will lose control of the title. I’m trying not to get too attached to either working title.
In the coming months I plan to address these steps writers should take as they work their way through the novel writing and traditional novel publishing process. From time-to-time, I will blog about the steps I listed above in blog posts titled “FixYourNovel #_,” and that’s “#” in the pre-Twitter numeric.
Look for the first installment in my “#FixYourNovel” blog series next Monday: Read entire novel manuscript aloud.
Do I have the audacity to write about how a writer goes about “fixing” his or her novel? Only time will tell.
Perhaps I can help someone out there who is also writing a debut novel, and some of the process might be of interest to those of you who like to read fiction. If my blog readers start dropping like flies, I’ll know you’re not interested.
Until my next blog post
I’ll read my manuscript out loud and see what it sounds like from start to finish.
Let’s continue the conversation
When you read a blog written in first person point-of-view, do you feel like you’re being talked “at” or not? Do you feel more included when you read a blog written in second person? Does it depend on the topic? Have you ever thought about it?