The first step to publishing a novel is often to write the first draft. This is the same whether you wish to traditionally or self publish. There are some exceptions to this rule.

If you’ve have an interesting story to tell from your real life or an expert in your field, a publisher or agent might reach out and request you write a book if there is a market in demand.

Some people prefer to hire a ghost writer to write for them. In this case you’re not the one physically writing your book and this post is not for you because today I’m covering writing the draft version.

Step 1 – Draft a Novel

Here is a handy info graphic of what I’m going to cover in this post.

You can save this to your Pinterest board.

Plan

If you’re writing a full length novel it’s useful to start with a plan. I don’t consider myself a plotter but I still write an outline. It helps me get from A to B, and a few check points along the way.

Some writers want a more detailed plan. They might want to design their characters, do some Worldbuilding and draw maps, or even need to research information.

Write

This is obviously the most important part. If you don’t write the book there won’t be a book. However, don’t get hung up on making it perfect. You will not publish your first draft – in fact nobody has to see that monstrosity if you don’t want them to.

Writing a novel is a big task. It can help to break it down into smaller more manageable tasks. Many writers find it useful to set word count goals. Writing sprints can be useful to focus time on writing in quick bursts.

Here’s a handy post on beating writers block.

Self Edit

Some writers edit as they write – this does slow the process down but afterwards your manuscript is in a better shape. Other writers spew the words onto the page and tidy up the mess afterwards.

It doesn’t matter how you do it but you’ll want to give it an edit before letting anyone else read it. It’s easy to make mistakes whilst you are in the moment.

You don’t need to limit the number of self edits. Edit it as many times as you need to. Some people break the task into different focusses. For example, you might do a read through and look for inconsistencies, or focus on SPAG, or receptiveness, or pacing.

Here is a post with some tips on how to self edit.

Alpha Reader

Not everybody uses an Alpha. They are often someone you are close to and you show them an early draft to get feedback. Sometimes Alphas are used before a book is finished to assess whether the story has any merit before investing a load of time in it.

Self Edit

Whenever you get feedback on your book you should reflect on it. Did your Alpha share some ideas to help you improve your book?

Don’t worry if they didn’t. Many Alphas are already your personal cheerleaders (like your spouse, mum, best friend, etc). They might not have the skills to critique but when you’re battling self doubt, they are the ones picking you up and cheering you on.

They may also have raised issues or ideas you hadn’t thought about. Often when trying to get someone to understand your idea, you discover the plot holes or where things aren’t clear enough.

Beta Readers

These people read a draft you’ve worked on improving. You can even find paid Betas who have skills to highlight where you can improve your novel further.

Here is a post that compares Beta and ARC readers (and touches on Alpha readers).

Self Edit

Yes! You will get feedback from your Betas on how to improve your book. It’s best to have a few Betas and they may even have conflicting views. Allow yourself time to reflect on their advice.

Remember it is your novel at the end of the day and if their ideas are changing the vision you had, you don’t have to apply them. However, if several readers pointed out the same thing, they most likely have a point you should pay attention to.

You may even want to ask your Betas questions. For example, is this sex scene too much for teen readers? Um… yes, I’m working on a story where my Betas will be asked this. 😂

Get a Professional Edit…

The next post in my series is about getting your manuscript professionally edited…

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