What to Do When You’ve Finished Writing Your Book

Someone asked me what to do once they have completed their book and gone over it and fixed everything that needed to be fixed.

The first thing you do is celebrate. You’ve accomplished something wonderful!

After that, what I suggest (and what I do) is let the book lie fallow for six weeks or so, then go over it one more time, looking at every single sentence, every bit of dialogue, checking to make sure each is important to the story and are the very best sentences possible. This is especially important with dialogue. In real life, we often can’t think of the perfect thing to say until the opportunity is long past, but ochampagneur characters don’t have to be so tongue-tied. We have hours — days — to come up with the perfect response for them to make.

Since you’ve spent so much time on the book, you know what you are trying to prove. For example, in a mystery, you are often trying to prove that someone is a killer, has a good motive, but deserves to get caught by your hero; in a romance, that the two main characters belong together. Go through the book and remove all stray commentary and side stories that do not show who your characters are and do not help prove whatever it is you are trying to prove.

If you are a first-time novelist, get rid of your first chapter. When people start out writing a book, they tell much about the characters at the beginning under the assumption that readers need all that information to understand the story. They don’t. I bet you will find that everything in the first chapter shows up later in the story when it’s important for the reader to have that particular bit. If not, you can always add a sentence or two at the proper moment. By deleting that first, probably redundant chapter, it puts readers right smack dab in the middle of the action and makes them a part of the story.

Next, even if you aren’t a first-time novelist, go through the book and get rid of your weakest scene. This will make your story tighter and more powerful.

Then read the story aloud, paying attention flow, bad grammar, typos, anything that makes you (or the person you are reading to if you managed to corner someone) pause or that pulls you out of the story. Make those changes.

Now you are ready to decide what you want to do. Self-publish? Find an agent? Submit to small independent presses? If you want to self-publish, sorry, I can’t help. I don’t have any interest in such matters, and so never bothered to figure out how to do it.

If you want to try for an agent or a publisher, learn how to write query letters. That’s your basic tool for getting them interested in your work. Then search for agents and publishers and pay attention to their requirements. Don’t send more (or less) than they ask. Preditors and Editors is a good place to start, as is Association of Authors’ Representatives.

When your book is published, however it happens, I bet you think you can finally relax now that the hard part is behind you. Wrong! Now the even harder part of promotion begins.

Best of luck, whatever you decide to do.

See also:

Grammar Guide for Self-Editing
Self-Editing — The List From Hell
How to Write a Query Letter
What Works When It Comes to Book Promotion?


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Follow Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

6 Responses to “What to Do When You’ve Finished Writing Your Book”

  1. rami ungar the writer Says:

    When I was doing edits for RC, I had this big fight scene near the end of the novel. I looked at it during the editing process and was like, “Why did I write this? It’s implausible. There’s an easier way to get to the climax.” And that’s what I did. Also, I ended up needing to delete the 2nd chapter from the story during the 2nd draft, but it follows your point about other things showing up later in the book.

  2. ROD MARSDEN Says:

    There was a film maker once who came up with the idea that a movie isn’t complete until it is in various cans and going out to various movie houses to be shown to paying audiences. Up til then it can be improved upon but there has to be a time when you say enough is enough. Howard Hughes was one film maker who didn’t know when to stop. His best movie Hell’s Angels is a grand example of this. It is over worked and whatever freshness it had was lost by the extra years put into it. Even so it still remains a masterpiece of its age.

    So what has this got to do with editing a novel? The same applies. You can overdo the editing process and lose whatever it was that made you want to write the novel in the first place. Hence the idea you have of giving yourself a break after writing it isn’t bad. Me? I tend to pass it on to a novelist friend to look over. When it comes back I look at seriously editing it.Then hopefully it will go to a publisher who will arrange further editing to have the novel suit the publishing house.

    Yes, reading the story aloud works for me. I tend to add extra punctuation where needed and remove where not needed. I also cut complicated sentences in half to add clarity for the reader.

    DEEP SIGH! Promotion! That is a hard task. I much prefer the writing to be honest.

  3. Ann Marie Meek Says:

    Nice post, as always. Thanks for sharing your insights. 🙂

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