Monday, September 15, 2014

I've Finished My Novel. Now What?

By Donnell Ann Bell 

I’ve finished my novel. Now what?

What an excellent question. Wouldn’t it be great if after we type “The End", that truly meant finis? Unfortunately, in the case of a novel, short story or any writing-related project, consider looking at The END as an opportunity.

An opportunity to send off our work and get it published, right?

Ultimately, yes. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Following are some tips I’ve learned in my newspaper/magazine days and after completing three published novels that I hope will help you. (Note: I’m still learning).

· Step away from the project. What does this mean? It means take a few days off. Why? Time allows us to be more objective about our work. We actually can catch typos we didn’t before because our brains have a tendency to correct what our eyes are seeing. 

How much time? That’s up to you. Some people wait two weeks. It’s amazing when you let a project sit how your objectivity returns and overrides the passion you’ve felt because you’ve completed a major goal.

Be proud, however, not foolish. You can always make a book better. Always, always, always. 

· Read your work out loud. You’ve proofread it, right? Reading work out loud is going to take time, and it’s monotonous and it’s time consuming. I’ve finished my book and I want to get published. 

No whining allowed. You want a professional product, right?

Reading our work aloud allows us to 1) pick up mistakes (again that our brains correct and our eyes miss) and 2)  lets us pick up nuances and passages we otherwise don’t recognize in the written word. Sometimes it’s stilted dialogue, oftentimes it’s narrative that shows we’ve overwritten, or worse, we’ve included the same passage twice. (It happens.) Again our brains/eyes miss it, and reading our work out loud is like providing an electrical conduit to our brain. It zaps us to attention and alerts us, hey, didn’t I already read that?

Hint: Reading a 250- to 400-page manuscript is time consuming and monotonous, especially when you want to get your work out the door. My critique partner and I have read our work to each other over the phone. Not all at once, of course. He’ll read two or three chapters one day; I’ll read two or three chapters the next. Not only does it allow us to read out loud, after we’re done, we give each other feedback. Win/win!

· Give your work to a trusted reader. Wait a minute. I’ve proofread, I’ve read it out loud, and I’m still not done?

Actually, you’re done when you say you’re done. But if you want to submit/publish the best possible product, take this extra step. What you’re asking a reader to do is look for developmental issues—things your critique partners might have missed. Think about it. Your critique partners may or may not have read your work in one sitting. They may have just read individual chapters. You’re asking a reader to look at the book as a whole. What do you think of my characters? Is there any part of the book that leaves you confused? How is my pacing? What about my hooks? Did you find any part of my work cliché? Finally, did I leave you wanting to turn the page, or did you want to put the story down? And why?

· Listen to feedback. Are readers always right? Absolutely not. Writing is subjective. But developing this first layer of toughness before an editor or agent looks at your submission can be helpful. Trust me―at least in my experience―neither of these professionals mince words. Further, if you’re Indy publishing your novel, listening can also prepare you for what reviewers are bound to say. 

Congratulations. I’m very, very happy for you. You’ve finished your book. Pat yourself on the back and revel in your success. Then get back to work—you’re a writer.

About the Author:  Donnell Ann Bell is the author of three romantic suspense novels:  The Past Came Hunting, Deadly Recall, and her newest release, Betrayed. All three releases have been Amazon Kindle best sellers. She has a new release coming from Bell Bridge Books in September and is currently working on a series. She is one of Pikes Peak Writers board members at large and loves to help/network with fellow writers. 


  1. You are so right. There's so much to do before you send it out.

  2. Great article Donnell and so true. I have beta read a couple of books with the author thinking it was ready for publication. It was a good thing they took the extra steps before going to publication. Never be in too much of a hurry to get a book (story, poem, or anything) out the door.


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