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You've finished your novel, now what?

I'm positive there will be a hundred pieces written about what you should do with your manuscript when you're finished with it, but none of them will have been written by me. And so this modest entry to my writing space is my suggestion on what I think you should do with you novel now that you're done with it, but it's your novel. You don't have to listen to me.

The first thing I'm going to tell you might seem difficult and as though it will take a long time, but it's absolutely going to help you more than you realize.

Write another book. 

Yes. That's right. Tear into a brand new manuscript. Something that doesn't even feel like what you've been working on. Don't let yourself go back to that other manuscript until this one is done. And there are a few reasons for this, and it's the method I use personally. Let me explain:

  1. Writing a book is a massive learning experience. By finishing a piece, you've leveled up as a writer and have new skills you didn't even realize you had. You're better able to diagnose what might be wrong, you'll be able to tell that something went foul in the beginning of your book you didn't even realize. So when you write another book before going back to a previous novel, you're going to do it as a much better writer than you otherwise would have been.
  2. You are married to every word you've written in a draft for a period after you've written it. You wrote the book that was in you at the moment you finished. If you go back and start to revising right then, you'll find far less wrong with your book than the reality. Writing another book and then coming back forces you to forget about the text and the decisions that brought you there. It lets you attack it with fresh eyes.
  3. It'll give you time to collect notes from others. Convincing people to read a book is hard work. It's actually more like a full-time job. Convincing them to read a rough draft is even harder, because you need someone who understands prose and story and can point out things that might be problematic for you. So instead of handing half a dozen people a copy of the book and following them around like a lost puppy until they read it, hand it over to them, get to work on the next book, and then come back to them and see what they thought. 
For me, when I've tried to revise immediately after finishing, it's harder for me to make major changes that will make the text that much better. I need the distance to divorce myself from the ideas I'd been married to and come back at it with a more objective eye. That distance has helped me come up with ideas for revisions I can guarantee I wouldn't have had otherwise. The character of Santa Madre in The Serpent's Head? This process is where she came from. Lebeau in The Aeronaut? Same place. 

Getting that breathing room makes it so much easier to figure out what your story needs.

I'll admit, sometimes I take this a little too far. The manuscript I'm working on currently in the revision phase is my sixth novel. I'm currently drafting my tenth. Seven, eight, and nine are just waiting for their turn. 

If I'm a good student of writing, and work to learn my craft better with each new manuscript, then by the time I'm revising book number ten, I'll be leveled up as a writer four or five more levels than I would have been if I had just dived directly into revisions.

I know there's a yearning to get your stuff out there quickly. But publishing moves slow. It should move slowly. Because it gives you time to learn and become a better writer and create more thoughtful stories.

Now, if you want tips on revisions, well, that will have to wait until next week.

As an update on my writing: I'm almost halfway through my tenth novel's manuscript. I started it about a week ago. It's coming so smoothly and quickly that I'm genuinely surprised. I also finished up  a top secret project I can't talk about, and I've turned in three different non-fiction pieces for various outlets you'll be seeing sooner or later.

I'd also remind you that The Aeronaut and Escape Vector are still out and still need your purchases and reviews. If nothing else, they can use you telling people about them. If you want signed copies, visit the shop here on this page.

Then, The Serpent's Head and Operation: Montauk are both in a Storybundle. The cost is "name your price," and they're packaged with a whole slew of other books worth checking out. Go ahead and snag them here. 

Also! here's a list of "rules and guidelines" I've been collecting over my years of studying writing advice and process. There are links to dozens of essays I've written about each individual bullet point and I think some people find it helpful.

As far as my work outside of all this: There's a lot of great stuff on Big Shiny Robot! and Full of Sith for you. 

And please, please, please don't forget to check out any of my books, drop reviews of them on Amazon or Goodreads, and follow me on twitter and Facebook!


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