You’ve Finished Your First Draft! Now What?…

10 Steps To Get You Published

So, you’ve finished your first draft?


Go out and celebrate because not many people get to this point.

However, don’t think for a minute that you are done. Oh no. You are far from done.

Writing the 1st draft is actually the easiest part of the whole process.

But it’s OK. We’ll walk through the next steps together.  😉

Before we begin, if you haven’t read “How To Treat Your Writing Like a Business” yet, take a few minutes and check it out.

Now, let’s get down to it.

10 Steps To Get You Published

Step 1: Walk Away From Your Manuscript

Don’t go back through and read it just yet. You brain needs a break. Take a few days and do anything but work on your manuscript (MS). If the idea of doing nothing at all in regards to your book makes you cringe then start rounding up agents and publishing houses you think will want your manuscript or look for blogs and groups to advertise it to.

Step 2: Read it through in one sitting. 

Schedule some time and space to just sit and read through the entire MS. Why? Because this is truly the only way to know if each chapter flows and if the whole story makes sense. While reading the MS all the way through do not stop to make corrections of any kind. If you absolutely need to you can make notes on a separate document or paper but don’t touch the MS just yet.

Step 3: Walk Away From Your Manuscript…Again.

OK, now you’ve read through the entire thing and you’re either thinking you should give up this crazy idea of becoming an author OR you’re thinking your stuff is the bomb and you’re going to shoot to the best sellers list on your first book. Either way, you need to walk away from your manuscript for at least a week. Why? Because the next step is revision and you can not accurately revise something that your eyes and brain are numb to. You wont be able to spot the errors because your brain knows what’s suppose to be there so it fills it in or corrects it in our head while looking over it.

Step 4: Start Revision Process #1

First things first, do you know the difference between Revisions and Edits? If not check out the graphic on the right.

photo from
photo from

Go back over your outline (or start one if you didn’t already) and see how close your story stayed with the plot plan. If you stayed on track then you need to make sure it all flows correctly and makes sense. If you veered widely off in another direction figure out if that new direction is better. If it isn’t fix it.

Tackle the manuscript chapter by chapter. Read through it and:

  • Add sentences and words where needed.
  • Remove unneeded words and sentences .
  • Move a sentence or word placement for better sense and flow.
  • Substitute filler & cliche words and sentences for strong ones that get to the point and have a better impact on the scene/story.

Make sure the chapter begins on an interesting point and ends leaving the reader wanting to turn to the next page.

Step 5: Start Edit Process #1

Go back to the beginning and take it chapter by chapter.

  • Make sure everything that needs to be capitalized is. 
  • Make sure all nouns and verbs are used correctly.
  • Check for correct punctuation and sentence structure.
  • Check for any spelling errors and incorrect word usage.
  • Make sure your POV (Point of View) is consistent.

Step 4 and 5 are one of the hardest times during the writing process. Many people give up on their manuscripts at this point. Even if you aren’t sure what you wrote will worth reading, don’t stop. The editing and revision process is what turns writers into authors. Anyone can sit down and bust out a first draft but it takes a true writer (someone who is willing to work hard to gain that author title) to push through and make a lump of coal shine bright like a diamond.

Step 6: Send It Out For a Critique

Hopefully, you have already been busy making connections in the writing world and have a critique group or critique partner lined up. If not, don’t freak out. It’s OK. Better late then never!

Why do I need a critique partner or group?

Critique partners are people who are writers like yourself in varying levels of experience and writing style. They will not only read your piece with the eyes of a reader but with the eyes of a writer. They will be able to spot if you’ve got an error in style, an error in POV and whether or not what you have written will irritate a literary agent or publisher.

How do I find one? 

There are many different ways to find a critique partner or group.

What should I expect from a critique?

There are many different ways someone can critique your piece. They can be very casual about it or very detailed. They can just give their opinions or point out specific problem areas and offer suggestions on how to fix it. It will all depend on who you find and what you both agree to.

Step 7: Start Revision and Editing Process #2 

Take all your critique suggestions into consideration.

Try not to look at your manuscript as your baby but as a product.

You are writing this book in hopes that someone will want to buy it and read it.

If your critique partners are giving you negative feedback there is a reason. Find out what is wrong with your story and fix it.

Make sure your story follows the guidelines of it’s genre, hits the key points that every reader will expect and has some surprising factors as well.

Fix any grammatical errors that your critique partners found and format your manuscript according to your genre’s specifications. For a general guideline on how to format your novel check out “Format Your Novel for Submission” on The Editors Blog.

Step 8: Send It Out to a Professional Proofreader and Editor

What’s the difference between proofreading and editing?

Image found on

I know some of you are thinking, “Isn’t this handled by the publishing house?” Yes it is.

However, if you are serious about getting this manuscript published (whether its through traditional routes or self-published) you need to invest some money into it and get it professionally proofread and edited.


  • If you looking to be represented by a literary agent and having a publishing house buy your manuscript then having it read the best that it could possibly read will only increase your chance of an offer.
  • If you are looking to self-publish having your manuscript proofread and edited will make it look professional and worth the money your readers pay for it.

Step 9: Send It Out To a Beta Reader

A beta reader is someone who will read over your finished manuscript to basically see if its any good.

There are some beta readers who are writers but the majority of beta readers are avid readers.

Why do I need a beta reader?

You need a beta reader because:

  • They will read your entire finished manuscript and tell you if it’s any good.
  • They will point out parts that don’t make sense to them. 
  • They will tell you if your main characters are any good or not. 
  • They will tell you what they liked and didn’t like in the story.

How do I find a beta reader?

What questions should I ask?

  1. Did you like the book title?
  2. Did you like the book cover?
  3. Did you like the beginning of the story?
  4. Did you feel confused or lost at any point in the first chapter? If so where and why?
  5. Did the first chapter capture your interest?
  6. What was your first impression of the main characters?
  7. Did you like the main characters? If not, why?
  8. Are there any characters in the story that you wished you could learn more about?
  9. What did you think of the heroine?
  10. What did you think of the hero?
  11. What did you think of the “villain”?
  12. Did you ever get confused on who was talking at any point in the story?
  13. Where you able to connect with the characters?
  14. Did their interactions seem realistic?
  15. Was there enough romance?
  16. Was there enough suspense or conflict to keep it interesting?
  17. Was there enough heart warming or funny moments?
  18. Did the dialogue sound natural to you? If not, could you list specific examples?
  19. Could you get a good feel for where and when the story took place?
  20. Was there too much description? If so could you list specific examples?
  21. Did the story get boring or drag at all? If so, where?
  22. Was there any part of the story (other then the first chapter) that confused or frustrated you?
  23. Did you notice any dialogue, description, or actions that seemed out of character for the main characters?
  24. Did you like the ending? If not, why?
  25. In the end did you feel the book delivered on it’s promise (meaning did it fit it’s genre expectations, did it match it’s title, did it follow along with the book blurb)?
  26. Would you be happy if you payed money for this book?
  27. Would you recommend this book to someone else?
  28. Would you want to read a continuation of this story?

⇒Tip: When looking for a beta reader, don’t settle for just one. Get at least 3.

  • One beta reader who is an avid reader of the sub-genre (example: Romantic Suspense) you wrote your manuscript in (Why? Because they will be able to point out anything that doesn’t go with the sub genre),
  • One beta reader who is an avid reader in the basic genre (example: Romance) of your MS (Why? Because they will be able to tell you if what you wrote fits within the genre)
  • One beta reader who is an avid reader, just not particularly a fan of your genre or sub-genre (example: Fiction) (Why? Because if they end up liking your book, even though they don’t particularly care for your genre, you just might have a winning story on your hands).

Step 10: Take The Leap of Faith

After you get your comments back from your beta readers look them over.

If there is anything negative, take some time to seriously consider their complaints.

If you feel like you can fix it and deliver what they wanted without compromising the story then do it.

In the end your goal is to please your reader but keep in mind that every reader is different and will like and hate different things.

You can not please every single reader. 

Once you have decided you’re happy with the manuscript then you need to make the most important decision in this process:

  • Will you look for a literary agent to represent you and help your find a publisher?
  • Will you try to represent yourself and find a publisher on your own?
  • Will you forgo the literary agent and publishing house to self-publish your work?

So many writers never became authors because they were afraid of rejection. They were afraid of putting themselves out there and finding a “home” for their books.

Don’t let all your hard work go to waste.

Take that leap of faith and get it out there for the public to see and read. 

Stay Tuned

Wednesday @ 9 am “What Do Romance Readers Want More Of?Let's Chat Graphic

Friday @ 9 am “What IS Body Acceptance?

  • Have you finished your first draft yet? If so, what process are you dreading next?
  • Do you experience with critique partners?
  • Have you ever used a professional Proofreader or Editor?

Published by Darla G. Denton, Writer

I am a Contemporary Romance Writer for Curvy women and the men who love them.

5 thoughts on “You’ve Finished Your First Draft! Now What?…

  1. Wow, this is so thorough and helpful. I really love the tip about reading through the whole manuscript and leaving it aside before going back to it. I think I need to do that.

    Liked by 1 person

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