You’ve spent months on it. Hours with your backside planted firmly in the seat of your chair, staring at your monitor and, hopefully, pounding the keyboard. The novel is finished.
Now what do you do?
Bro (one of our first two cats) has the right idea. Get into your favorite chair and settle in for a nap. A nice, long nap!
Almost everybody who’s ever gone through the process says the thing to do after you finish the first draft is forget the very thing you’ve sweated and slaved over.
Turn your mind away from all that work. Let the manuscript grow cold, so you can go back to it with a fresh eye, like a reader reading it for the first time. How long does that take? Recommendations range from a week to a couple of months.
That all sounds well and good, but how do you do that?
1. Read Someone Else’s Work
The best way to keep your mind off your own work is to enjoy someone else’s. Do you have a stack of books on your To Be Read pile? Now’s the time to tackle a couple of them.
2. Hone Your Craft
Take a writing lesson. They’re available online, through writer’s organizations such as the ACFW, through publications like The Writer’s Digest, and many other places.
Many successful authors have also written about the craft of writing. I like James Scott Bell’s books, but there are others. Find a book you’ve always wanted to read or maybe one that has a current buzz and sink your literary teeth into it.
If it has writing exercises or lessons, do those. They will improve your writing skills. You may also be surprised how much they prompt ideas.
3. How About a New Story?
Sometimes the best way to pass the time between completing the first draft and starting the second is to explore new ideas. If you’re a pantser, work on whatever scenes come to mind.
If you’re a plotter, do whatever you do to get the development phase started.
Or you could ask yourself what happens next for your characters. Do they have another story to tell?
4. Random Writing
Find writing prompts and make your own exercises by using them as jumping off points.
Experiment with genres outside your usual work or write random scenes, whatever comes to mind.
5. Do Something Fun
There’s nothing wrong with turning from writing altogether for the cooling off period. If you like jigsaw puzzles, but couldn’t spare the time for them while writing, put one together now.
How about yard work?
Or dabbling in art or something else you’ve been wanting to do.
The ideas are as limitless as your imagination, so don’t be shy.
The End of the Matter….
There are a gillion things you could do while waiting to begin second draft work. The key is to remember that this is your vacation from work. Make the most of it, even if you do head to the library for a good book to read or to do a little research.
And remember, it is okay to make notes on that first draft. You can’t stop the questions, thoughts or ideas that will pop into your mind concerning that newly finished story. It’s perfectly acceptable to jot them down. In fact, it’s a good idea. There’s nothing quite so frustrating as knowing you had a good idea but are unable to remember it when the time comes to get started again.
Keep something to write on and write with handy at all times so those interesting tidbits can be recorded. You can type them, too, if you want to.
But remember, the end of the matter is that the purpose of the cooling off period for a manuscript at any stage is to give your mind a rest from it. Keep your notes short and don’t linger over them in thought, either.
These are just a few of the things I usually do after finishing a first draft.
What do you do after finishing your manuscript?