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I Finished My Novel…Now What? (Part 1)

I finished my what?

So, you’ve finished writing your novel? Congratulations! You’re in good company. A lot of people just completed a novel last month in Camp Nanowrimo.

Now that you’ve finished your manuscript, what should you do?

Whatever you do…don’t publish it!

Finishing the first draft is only one step of many before your novel is ready to be seen by the world – and especially by paying readers.

Set it aside

As much as you want to jump in and do something with it, the best thing you can do is to let it sit for a while. It doesn’t do anything to help the story, but it helps YOU.

Setting aside the story gives you the space you need to in order to not be so close to it. The closer you are, the harder it is be objective. It’s yours, so you’ll always be close. That’s why it’s important to give it space. How long? Some recommend three to six months, or even longer. A couple weeks might be all you need. There are no hard and fast rules. You can figure it out as you go.

Just set it aside for a while.

Start your next book

Wait…what? Start my next novel? But I just finished this one. I need to get it to completion before I even start thinking about the next one. Right?

Nope. The reality of this author thing is that success takes time and multiple books. It’s a rare thing for an author’s first novel to become a best-selling success. Most of the big name authors had many years of writing and a lot of titles under their belts before they saw success.

The best thing for you to do for your future writing career is start your next book. Either write the next book in the series or if the one you just wrote is a standalone, start a new book. Preferably one that will be a series.

Why a series? They’re better for a couple reasons. One, readers love to read a series. Once they grow attached to the characters and the world, they are going to want more once it’s over. Series are also better for you.

It’s much easier to write characters that you already know. It’s like going back home and spending time with people you know and love. It’s a lot more work to start completely over with each new novel.

Build your online presence

Are you serious? Build my presence now? You’ve got me sitting on my first draft and I’m supposed to go out there and promote my book?

That’s right. Marketing your novel begins long before you hit publish. There is a lot you can do to build buzz and excitement about your upcoming book, even six months before it sees the light of day.

Simple ways you can start working on your author platform:

  • Set up a self-hosted website
  • Create a Facebook “fan” page and/or group
  • Start a twitter account
  • Join Mailchimp and start building your newsletter list today so you have people to email when you have a new release

When you interact with people online, don’t shout for people to buy your book. Engage with them. Have fun. Let them get to know you while at the same time learning about them too.

Looking for ideas? I shared my experiences with author platform building on the Story Telling Podcast.

Educate yourself

Whether you want to self publish or go with a traditional publisher, you need to keep yourself updated on what’s going on in this fast-paced, ever-changing industry.

Don’t know where to start? Check out my list of writer’s resources. You’ll find plenty to get you started, and I only share the ones that I personally believe in.

Listen to podcasts. There is a wealth of information on many of the writing podcasts. Some of the ones I listen to are: The Self Publishing Podcast, Rocking Self Publishing, The Story Telling Podcast, Self Publishing Round Table, Marie Forleo, and more. That’s enough to keep you busy for a while!

Read your story

Once you’ve let the story sit a while, read it straight through. You’ll be able to see the overall story better that way, and also any story structure problems. Did someone start out with green eyes and end up with blue? Was someone driving a Ford and then later magically had a BMW? Was someone dead that suddenly came back to life? Or injured and then dancing the night away two days later?

Those types of errors will stand out when you read it straight through. Do your best to get it read in a few days (or less!) so that everything stays fresh. Take notes on what needs to be changed, but avoid the temptation to stop and edit.

Do. Not. Edit. Not yet. Get that story read all the way through first.

Rewrite and self-edit

Once you’ve let your story sit and then given it a quick read, now it’s finally time to get in and fix things. Throw out scenes that don’t need to be included. Add the ones that do. Make it the best you can.

You’re still not ready to publish.

Stay tuned!

On Thursday, I will publish the second part of the series to help you publish your novel in the best shape possible! You can bookmark this page, and when it’s live I’ll update this post with the link to part two. If you follow what I’ve shared in this post, you’ll be busy enough for a while, anyway!

Read Part Two here.

Question or comment? I’d love to hear from you!

Image by mislav-m


  1. This is fabulous, Stacy! I can’t wait for part two. I remember you telling me in our group to let it rest, and it was the best thing that I could have done. It made such a difference. Now to start the next book…

    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed it, Stephanie! Will your next book follow Finding Eliza or something new?

      1. I can’t decide! I keep changing my mind. I’ve got two ideas in my head. I just posted it in my reader group to see what people think sounds good. I might start one as a series on Wattpad to play around there. If I do, I might do a thriller based on my flash fiction piece about a missing child and use the serial idea on Wattpad of Jerrica Teal – a mom turned cozy mystery detective with some twists and turns in her past. Too many ideas. I need to just write! I’ve been so focused on Finding Eliza the last few months that I haven’t let any other characters talk to me. Some beta readers are asking for novellas based on the secondary characters in FE. That might happen on Wattpad, too. So many things to choose from!

        1. One good problem to have is more ideas than time! It’s definitely a problem I face, even with as much writing as I do. I would definitely recommend continuing with FE because you’re already building the audience for that world. But of course, it’s up to you! 🙂 You could go the route of the self publishing podcast guys and start off writing different genres from the beginning.

          Once I started seeing traction on my series, I knew I had to keep writing more. Some readers pick up everything I have for sale in the series, no matter the length. I have everything from short stories to 100k+ novels.

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