The first draft of Cowboys and Dragons Book 2: The Dragon Riders is finished!
Hallelujah! Queue the music. It’s time to roll…
Oh, but if only it was that simple. The truth is, I have a ways to go before this book hits the shelves. Completing the first draft represents only part of the whole process of writing a finished novel. Now don’t get me wrong, actually writing the book is probably the greatest step forward, but I wouldn’t say it’s time to break out the champagne just yet.
So what’s next you might be asking? Excellent question, and I think the best way to answer that is to cover my process for writing. However, if that doesn’t really interest you, scroll down and look for the section: What’s Next?
Step 1: Outline
As much as an outline takes away some of the romanticism involved in writing a novel the truth is it keeps you focused and the story on point. Now keep in mind, I started writing this draft at the end of October, which in retrospect isn’t the best time to begin writing anything if you have kids. There’s a shocking amount of days off between the middle of October and the beginning of January. And if you’ve ever tried to do anything, and I need anything that requires any ounce of concentration with kids at the house, you know how difficult this could be. What an outline does is it allows me the flexibility to skip days, even weeks, and be able to pick up where I left off without having to reread everything that I’ve written already. The downside is that you have to have faith in your outline, because when you’re four months through the story and writing your last chapter, you’re really hoping everything makes sense. Because I’m writing a series, my outline consists of all five books plus back-story and other elements that take place beyond the narrative of the novels.
Step 2: Beats
For me this is where the story really starts to come together. Simply put, beats our paragraphs describing important events, dialogue, and plot points. This is where I start to pull together chapters and get a sense of the overall story. It’s easy to read through well-documented beats and see if the overall plot and character arcs are going to work. When you try to write several novels a year like I am, this step is critical for time management.
Step 3: First Draft
Now that the beats are fleshed out, it’s time to buckle down and write the story. There are almost as many thoughts on the right way to draft, as there are books on writing. While a lot of them encourage you to write continuously and if something changes; a character’s name, a location, a subplot, note that in the script and just keep on rolling, I can’t really write that way. I find that I’m too distracted by the fact that there are inaccuracies earlier in the story that I have to go back and correct them. However, if there is something I feel might need more explanation or I’m worried that a particular plot point isn’t set up well enough, I’ll write it in a notes section of the manuscript so at least it is out of my mind. For me, having a first draft that you can hand off to somebody to read is important. So I probably take a little more time here that I should.
Step 4: Revisions
What was once the bane of my existence, I’ve come to embrace as the difference between people who write as a hobby and people who write for a living. I’m loath to say that The Dragon Rustler took me over a year to revise. Yes, I said a year. But in my defense, it was the first novel I had written, and I really didn’t know what I was doing. The first time I went through the story I fought the process the entire way. However, by the time I’d gotten back the novel from my editor, I have found that I started to enjoy trying to make the story as good as it possibly could be. I could probably write twenty blog post just on revising alone. It is that important. But because I need to get back to work, I’ll keep this short. The first time I revise, I concentrate on the overall story. Does it make sense? Is there a build up to the climax? Does the main character grow? Is the antagonist’s motivation believable? When I’ve answered all these satisfactorily, I begin my next rounds of revisions. Yes, I said the next rounds of revisions; because every single time I have reread my story I find spelling and grammatical errors. So I really think it’s important to reread the novel multiple times in order to catch everything you can. Now with that said, you will not catch everything. But that’s okay, because we have the next steps.
Step 5: Alpha Readers
I delineate Alpha readers as a small group of trusted reviewers who will give you honest suggestions on plot, character, and overall story structure. Yes, they will also catch spelling and grammatical errors but I think it is a waste of their time to be your primary resource for that type of editing. At this step, you will really see if your story will work for an audience. If it doesn’t, back to step four.
Step 6: Professional Editing
I can’t stress enough the importance of having a professional editor work on your manuscript. There are a billion things you is an author will not be able to see. For me, it was one of the craziest things to have reviewed my manuscript no less than ten times, thinking it was pretty solid, and seeing the copious amounts of mistakes when it came back from my editor. While you might be tempted to have a friend or family member who is either a professional writer or has a writing background do this step, this could be a mistake. To be successful, you really need to have someone impartial read through, correct, and possibly suggest further areas of development, in order to have a solid finished product. Ideally, this editor is not only familiar with your genre, but also your target audience.
Step 7: More Revisions
Yes, you will have more revisions. If your editors in any good, they will find things you as an author completely missed. Suck it up, don’t take it personally, and make your story better.
Step 8: Beta Readers
Unlike Alpha readers, Beta readers should consist of your target audience. This is your last opportunity to find out if there are any issues with your story before you go through the trouble of publishing. Since I write stories targeted at the middle grade audience, I like to have both parents and children and both sexes provide me with feedback.
Step 9: Still More Revisions
Yep. You’re not done revising yet. You will definitely receive feedback from your beta readers on something that is confusing, unclear, or desired in the story. Oh, and they will also catch spelling and grammar errors too that everyone up to this point has missed.
Step 10: Publishing the Book
I’ve actually covered this quite a bit in my previous blog posts, so I won’t go into the details here. But guess what? As you go through this process you will find errors.
So what will I be doing next? And how long will that take? To summarize, I’ll be heads down working on revisions for the next month. If you read through the steps you know that the first time I revised the book it took me a year. However, reading through what I’ve written so far, the quality of my writing has increased to the point where my first draft of The Dragon Riders is better off than where I was after several revisions of The Dragon Rustler.
My goal is still to have The Dragon Riders for sale in late spring. As I get further along in the process I’ll update this site with any adjustments to that timeline.
Thank you so much for your interest and support. If you have any additional questions about my writing process, please comment below.