After the First Draft: 3 Steps All Writers Should Take

Any writer knows a first draft is the first step on the road to crafting a novel…but what comes next? As a professional editor who’s been part of that process, I know those next steps can be confusing (and exhausting), so I’ve dug up a couple of guides to walk you through it.

The first guide comes from Joanna Penn, a best-selling author and owner of The Creative Penn, a fantastic resource for writing, publishing, and marketing your book. Essentially, she advises a cycle of re-reading and revision: make as many improvements as you can on your own, then turn the work over to someone else (be it a beta-reader or an editor). Then, you take that feedback and incorporate it into yet another re-write.


Our next guide is a guest post from indie author Teymour Shahabi via Jane Friedman’s blog. Essentially, it walks you through a three-step questionnaire: do you need an editor (yes), when should you edit (after self-editing), and how do you find an editor? It offers the logic behind each step, and links to some additional resources.

Drawing on both of these guides (as well as my own experience), here are the three basic steps I advise every writer to take once they’ve finished their first draft:

  • Read – You can do this yourself or find a beta-reader (preferably both), but get some eyes on the manuscript.
  • Revise – Again, you can do this yourself or find a professional, but no first draft is perfect. It WILL need revision.
  • Repeat – Put the draft away for a while, then come back to it. Chances are you’ll spot all kinds of things that slipped through on the first re-read.

That’s it—the process can seem daunting, but it’s really very simple: read, revise, repeat. Take it one step at a time, and don’t try to fix everything at once. Remember: writing isn’t an event…it’s a process.



Shannon Roberts has been editing fiction and providing authorial support for ten years. She’s also taken a few courses in Social Media Marketing, and would love to hear from you! You can find her on Twitter (@RedPenGal) or LinkedIn.