This is the first in a series of posts entitled Publishing 101: Draft to Book in 30 days. To learn more about this challenge, visit the Publishing 101 page where all links regarding this topic will be listed as they come available.
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The first thing I do when I finish a first draft (after the happy dance) is record the date and word count. Then I save the file and ship off a copy to my online storage facility. If my house blows up, flood waters converge or aliens invade Nova Scotia, I can still access my wonderful first draft anywhere I can gain an Internet signal—as long as I survive.
I also save it to my external hard drive so if my computer goes black, I have a copy. There is nothing more discouraging for a writer than to spend weeks, months or years on a novel to lose it in a computer crash.
The novella I’m using for the Publishing 101: From Draft to Book in 30 Days challenge is Fowl Summer Nights. It was meant to be a short story of about 6,000 words, but the story got away on me. The first draft contained 20,557 words. It was completed on January 21, 2014.
I record these two facts because I like to compare the first draft with the final, ready for publishing copy. It gives me an idea of how the story grew or shrank. The date is important because I like to ripen my first draft for at least a week, longer if I can. This gives me a chance to forget what I’ve written and detach myself emotionally from the story.
Fowl Summer Nights aged for twelve days before I sat down with a cup of tea and read it from start to finish on February 2nd. I completed it in three hours. I’m no speed reader, and I read even slower on the computer.
During this time I also corrected little mistakes. If I had discovered a larger, time-consuming mistake, I would have made a note about it and returned to correct it after I had finished reading or during another edit session. This initial read was meant to be completed in the shortest amount of time.
Time: I keep track of the time it takes me to perform specific publishing tasks. It gives me the opportunity to see what took up the most and the least time, and allows me to see if I can improve my efficiency. It also tells me how quickly I can perform each task, so in the future I can better plan my publishing schedule. Personally, it takes me three hours to read 20,000 words. This means I’ll need about fifteen hours to read a 100,000-word novel.
The purpose for reading the story in as few sittings as possible is to gage the readability, the flow and the feelings it creates. While reading I think about the following questions:
- Does the story make sense? Or is it so confusing readers will throw it against the wall?
- Are there inconsistencies? In other words, is a character five years old in one paragraph and eight in another even though only a few weeks passed? Is it snowing in one chapter and summer in the next even though it’s still the same day?
- Is every character necessary, are they consistent and are their names correct? I don’t want the side-kick to be called Freda in chapter one and Farah in chapter six unless there is a darn good reason for it.
- Do the chapter divisions make sense?
- Is there enough action/plot/character development for it to be a complete, interesting story?
- Does the story meet my expectations?
If I find issues with any of these items, I fix them before moving on to the next editing step.
I feel satisfied with the story, and since I had forgotten a few of the lines, I was surprised that I found them funny and laughed. I’m hoping this is an indication that readers will also find the story funny.
This is my first attempt at humour, so it will be interesting to see how it is received.
Immediately after reading the story, I write a one sentence description of the book. I write it as if I’m talking to someone face to face and they’ve asked me what my book is about.
Fowl Summer Nights is about a retired Canada Post worker who livens up her golden years by starting a hobby that drives her neighbours crazy.
This completes this step in the Draft to Book in 30 Day challenge.
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