You worked hard. You stayed up late, got up early, pushed through writer’s block, and finally, at long last, finished writing your book.
But after you write a book, what comes next?
How I Finished My Book
Two weeks ago, I finally finished my book. To incentivize me, my friends Jeff Goins and Tim Grahl and a few others challenged me to write a $1,000 check to the presidential I despise the most on the condition that it would get sent if I didn’t finish my book by the deadline.
Now that my book is finished, I have been planning my next steps.
Because when you finish writing your book, you’re not really finished. In fact, finishing your book is just the beginning.
In this post, we’ll talk about what comes after you write a book.
What You Shouldn’t Do After You Write a Book
But before we talk about what you should do, let’s talk for a moment about what you should avoid after writing your book.
Don’t send your book to a publisher.
Good writing is rewriting. If you want to get published, don’t send your book to any of the following people yet:
- Acquisitions Editors
Submitting your manuscript before it’s ready could lead to permanently burning a bridge. I know you’re excited about sharing your hard work, but there is still a lot to do.
Don’t send your book to beta readers.
Beta readers, people who read your book and give you feedback before you publish, can help transform your manuscript from mediocre to excellent.
However, beta readers are best used after you’ve worked out some of the kinks in your manuscript on your own first. Otherwise you might get feedback that you’re not ready for, or that even hurts your self-confidence as a writer.
We’ll talk about the best time to send to beta readers in a moment.
Don’t edit your book.
What most people do after they finish their book is go back to page one and start line editing from the beginning, fixing typos, correcting grammar, and polishing sentences until they shimmer.
This is a huge mistake.
Because here’s the problem: After you finish your book, there are going to be major structural problems. There are going to be sections that need to be cut, other sections that need to be written from scratch, and some sections that need to be rewritten.
What happens when you realize you have to cut a section that you’ve spent hours, days even, polishing? At best, you’ve just wasted a lot of time, and at worst you might be tempted to leave a problematic chapter in your manuscript because you’ve become attached to it.
Instead, I have a better system that will save you time and result in a better book at the end of the process.
5 Next Steps After You Write a Book
Now that you know how to avoid the pitfalls after you write a book, let’s talk about what you should do next.
1. Let Your Book Rest
Not only do you need a break after writing your book, your book needs one too.
This is because after you finish your book you have no perspective on it. You don’t know what’s good, what’s bad, what needs work, what is good as is.
Letting your book sit for a few weeks, even a month, gives you time to regain perspective and start to see what your book really is.
For me, I’ve been letting my book sit for two weeks, and only now am I feeling ready to get started with the editing process.
2. Read Your Book
Before you jump into editing, read your book from start to finish. This is the second step in gaining perspective on your book, and while it’s time consuming, it will save you dozens of hours because you’ll see exactly what you need to work on for your next draft.
As you write ask yourself the following questions and take notes about what you find:
- What’s missing?
- What’s extra?
- What needs to be rewritten?
For me, this is my next step, and I’m both excited and a little terrified of what I’m going to find.
When you read your book you’re almost certainly going to be surprised. By how good some sections are. By how bad most of the rest is. But especially how different what you actually wrote is from what you had in your head.
There are some things you might have to grieve after you read your book. But this is also a chance to dream again.
What could your book become? How could you transform it into something new?
For me, I’ve been doing this even as I was writing the book, and I’m really excited to see how my dreams for the book change as I go through the editing process.
4. Edit and Rewrite for Structure
Now that you have a good idea about where your book is and where you want it to go, you’re ready for the second draft.
Your second draft isn’t about fixing typos and polishing sentences. It’s about structure.
This is when you write new sections for those holes you found when you read through your draft. This is when you cut those sections that weren’t necessary, and when you rewrite the sections that were but were broken.
This part can feel like excavation, chiseling away at your book trying to discover the treasure underneath the surface.
Once the overall structure of your book is sound, only then should you start to polish.
5. Get Some Help
After your second draft, it is a good time to start to inviting other people into your book, including beta readers or even an editor.
Before this, your book isn’t you enough, and if you get too much involvement from other people, you lose some of your personal vision. The second draft allows you to put more of you into your book.
But after you’ve been through the steps above, you’re ready to build a team that can take your book to the next level. (And also catch some of those typos you missed.)
Then, at last, after all of these steps, your book is ready to be proofread, grammar checked, and polished.
This Is the Hard Part of Writing A Book
As hard as writing the first draft is, I’ve found that editing is much harder. Most of my writing breakdowns have come on the second draft, not the first.
However, editing can also be the most exciting part of the writing process because at last you are watching this thing that you have created finally become a book.
A lot of people want to write books. Few ever actually finish one. It’s a rare experience to be able to edit your book. When you get to this point, I hope you’ll do your best to enjoy it.
Have you ever finished writing a book? How did it feel? Let me know in the comments!
Go back and find a practice you’ve written in earlier lessons. (Haven’t practiced before? Here are our top 100 writing lessons.) Use step #2 and read your practice over, asking yourself the following questions:
- What’s missing?
- What’s extra?
- What needs to be rewritten?
Next, spend fifteen minutes editing your practice for structure. When your time is up, post your practice in the comments section below. And if you post, please be sure to give feedback on a few pieces by other writers.