I would like to dispel a common misconception about your chosen profession.
When you type “The End” it’s not actually the end. You don’t get to push your chair away from your desk go upstairs and disappear into a bottle of whiskey until the next brilliant idea strikes you.
You do get to push back and have a few shots to celebrate, but then you have to sober up and get back to work. Because you see, the moment you type “The End” is when the real work begins.
Storytelling – that part is easy. We writers are (hopefully) natural-born storytellers. We love to spin a good yarn.
Now, that doesn’t mean that we’re perfect though. When we get to “The End” of our first draft, whether we plot or not, there is still story work to be done. Jeffery Deaver himself is famous for reading, revising and editing every single word of every single page 30 plus times before he allows his agent or editor to see his work. And he plots. Extensively.
So, when you type The End and push that manuscript aside and reach for the bottle – remember, when the bottle is empty and the headache is gone, you have to come back, sit down and get back to work. You have to read the whole book cover to cover. Take notes on a separate piece of paper or a fresh document, or track your changes and comments inline, whatever works for you. But do the work.
Make the changes.
Then do it again.
When you think it’s perfect, give it to someone else. Someone who can be critical. Someone who reads a lot. Someone who can help, who will see things you can’t.
Listen to their advice. You don’t have to take it all, but allow yourself the option. Don’t get defensive. They don’t really think your baby is ugly, they just think it could be better if it had ten fingers instead of twelve, and if its feet weren’t webbed, and if its nose was under its eyes instead of where the belly button should be.
Then, revise it again.
Read it out loud. Force yourself to read it as you wrote it, not as you wish you had written it.
Write “The End” again.
Now… Let’s say you did all this, and your story is good, really good, agent, publisher, three book, six figure deal good.
Put the bottle down. You’re still not done.
Now you have to edit and revise with your publisher. And you have to write book two. And you have to gear up your marketing and publicity machine. You have to go from an introvert who spent five years in your mother’s basement banging out a novel to extroverted writing machine who can talk yourself up, cut out your favorite lines without whining and write another fresh amazing novel in under 12 months.
If I just freaked you out – don’t worry, there’s another option. You can also indie-pub or self-pub. You can small press it.
Except this means that your work is really, really not done.
You have to make that book tits perfect, because readers are getting a little fed up with the crap being spewed out by people with no craft. So you’re going to have to make sure your book really does shine. You might even have to hire an independent editor if your small press doesn’t do the standard three rounds of editing. At the very least, you want that baby copy edited. (Think photo shop for a manuscript.)
And then… You’re going to have to get the word out. Again, you can do this. You can hustle. You can “sell it like Amway” in the words of one of my writer pals. Or you can hire someone to do it for you. But that still doesn’t get you off the hook, not entirely.
You still have to communicate, even if it is just with that one person. You still have to answer questions, be available for the odd interview, write an article, short story, guest blog post or two. You have to participate.
Oh, and you still have to write another book while you’re doing it.
Writing the story is only the first third of the battle. It’s the warm up. It’s the appetizer.
Then you have to turn the story into a book. And then, finally you have to convince people to care that another book is out there, and you have to convince them they want to read it, and buy it, and share it. And then, you have to tell another story. And another.
You are a bard.
You must tell your story to the world. Not from the safe confines of your dark writing cave, but by being out in the world. By being part of it all. By making yourself available and being open.
You must be of this world, even as you stand outside of it telling its story.
For us writers, The End is really just the beginning.
So, put down that drink. And get back to work.