You are on the home stretch of writing your book. There are still a few checks you have to go through on your Second Draft then you can write the Final Draft. Once again print out and read aloud the Second draft to see where there are still problems, highlight them and correct them with this last draft. This may take you up to twelve weeks to do but it is worth the effort. Have a break; to be able to come back to your work with a reader’s eye not as though it is your prem baby that needs coddling. This is your final chance to whip it into the best shape you can possibly make it.
If you can’t be that ruthless with your book hand it over to a trusted reader who knows something about how books need to be written. If you are a member of a writing group then you have a built-in critiquing group that will be happy to read the finished product. Their eyes are new to your words and they will see the things that drop them out of your story.
Ask them to write down the corrections they feel are needed. You might not take all their suggestions on board as it is your book but it will force you to take a more objective look at those areas. Even now there will be many things that need altering.
Dialogue needs to sound natural
Here is where reading your words out loud will help you pick up on speech that is too formal. Think of your character and how they would possibly speak to a friend. It is difficult for others to read if you put in too much local accent sometimes but there should be enough to differentiate between an American and a Brit for example without you having to say that is what they are.
Don’t do the ‘Hi, how are you?’ bit every time unless it is a very formal occasion. Dialogue is often part of setting the scene or as part of the action to use it to dig into the scene quickly. Some writers start their new chapters with dialogue for that reason. You might insert hesitations if needed and use contractions as that is normal in our speech and might help your character be more believable. Who hasn’t been interrupted while talking? Use that to show either urgency or an inconsiderate person.
When writing your dialogue you need to make sure your characters sound different enough that after the first couple of ‘he said, she said’ the reader knows which one is now talking. The words you use in the dialogue should help your readers know the feeling behind them without being adverbially told. Action description can be used if really needed.
Unless your character is learning a new job they will not need to be told how to do something they should already know. Maybe at the end of a mystery, the detective will spell out the clues that lead them to their conclusions but that is one of the few times of overt telling needed. If you are trying to show how obnoxious a boss is you can let them start but have them interrupted in a polite manner very early on.
The whole purpose of a riveting tale is to pull the reader along with the action/reaction, showing not telling cycle that hooks them into your world and characters so deeply that the real world does not exist while they are reading. No lectures allowed.
Show the growth in your character along the way. You might write more words illustrating what makes them look untidy, ill at ease amongst a group of unknown people, vivacious, shy, bossy or whatever they are like but people recognise those traits as something they, their friends and family do. It draws them into accepting them as ‘book friends’ in their minds.
In real life you learn about your own friends over time; what their likes and dislikes are, how they act and dress, why they became your friends or lovers so let this happen with your characters. You put enough backstory in along the way where its needed to know why they did something that you may not have expected. No ‘data dumps’ remember.
Have you ever read a book that the whole page was one paragraph filling it all up? Annoying wasn’t it. We now know that our eyes need the white space between paragraphs as part of our assimilation of the words. PowerPoint works better with 3-5 words and 3-5 lines per slide. It gives you the highlights, not every word you may say in a presentation. Paragraphs in stories need and do a similar action.
Short paragraphs pump up the action. Long paragraphs slow it down and there is a place for this quiet time between the actions scenes. Remember how you were taught to structure paragraphs in English class – Topic, supporting sentences and conclusion – and keep this in mind as you write. Don’t meander over multiple subjects unless you are showing the mind of a concussed person or a mental patient’s thoughts.
Mention what you want to say and don’t do it how I sometimes talk. I say the same thing up to three times; it might be in a slightly different way but it can make people snap at me, ‘I know. That’s the third time you have told me.’ Think about that when you read what you have written. If you want to add emphasise then explore the topic in many different aspects; maybe through the senses. Get the words to be the exact ones needed for what you are on about at the time.
Words other than ‘was’
Use all those words that don’t get used often enough as they will make your story more interesting; loitering, ambled, sprinted, grumbling and so on. I know ‘was’ is short, easy but you want your readers to finish and love your books. Readers love interesting or unusual words that expand their vocabulary and can be used in their own writing or in conversations. If you have to stick to a word count then make all those words worth being in your book. Action is active so your words should be too. Don’t waffle, be strong.
Other things to watch out for
The catchphrase of the day is one that annoys me and will make your stories feel dated in a very short time. “Not on my watch’ is one that is currently irritating me but it is going out of fashion finally, thank god. Your story needs to have a universal feeling at the bottom of it that everyone who reads it can relate to. Repetition of words or phrases is one thing to watch for. ‘Find and Replace’ is your friend here when going through your whole manuscript. If you find it when reading the printed page, highlight it and put that in as something that needs redoing during the rewrite. Try not to use the same old metaphors and similes as everyone else. Make up some descriptive ones yourself. Shakespeare is still quoted hundreds of years after his death as he was not scared to do his own thing with his words. Check for typos, the wrong words (there or their), doubled words, unclosed exclamation marks and all the fiddly diddly parts of writing. This is especially important if you are going to make your story an ebook or to self-publish it.
Now you see why it takes longer each time
This is the Final Draft. You have to sit down and rewrite the story yet again. Insert all the needed changes. Delete and hold in a file all the scenes you no longer want in your story. Tighten up the rest of the words to make the best story possible. Polish your story till it gleams.
- Have you done this last rewrite?
- Have you given it to beta readers for feedback?
- Have you addressed what they may have told you didn’t feel right to them?
- Have you gone over it multiple times yourself looking at different problems?
- Remember Spelling and grammar check in MS Word does not catch everything so your eye has to tell you when it has missed something.
- You are close now so keep going till the end.