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  • Writer's pictureDebra Leigh

I'm Done! Now What?

After tirelessly plotting, scripting, and typing away for months (or even years), you finally finished the first draft of your manuscript. So, what now?

Go. Fucking. Celebrate.

Seriously, that's an amazing accomplishment and you should be super fucking proud of yourself. Leave the kids and fur babies at home and go get your party on!

Okay, now that you're properly hung over, the real work begins.

Personal Edit

Upon finishing a manuscript, I reread every word from front to back, fixing any typos, rewriting poorly worded phrases, merging chapters, and removing unnecessary sentences and paragraphs (yes, you will have these and they have to go).

At this point, I send my work out to my Beta Readers. For me, that's my mom, aunt, and a few close friends. For you, however, it may be a spouse, child, or even a bookish friend you met online. Whoever you choose, make sure they are willing and able to give proper critiques (yes, scary word, but the reality of the situation is, all first drafts suck). Their feedback can make or break the way a chapter turns out.

Writing a book is not a solidary process, so get used to asking for help. We all need it!

Professional Edit

Once these corrections are made, I send my manuscript to a professional editor. There are different types of editing depending on what you're worried about/looking for.

  • Developmental Editors: are concerned with the material as a whole rather than specific grammatical issues. They help writers with the overall structure of their content, including content creation, organization, tone of voice, and character development.

  • Copy Editors: identify grammar issues, punctuation errors, and other problems such as awkward phrasing and inconsistent language. Sometimes they even provide minor rephrasing or light rewriting, depending on your needs.

  • Substantive Editors: go a step further than copy editors to address clarity and style. Substantive editors perform moderate rephrasing at the sentence level all the way up to major rewrites of entire paragraphs, sections, or chapters.

Once my content is sent back to me, I work my way through the suggested changes to accept or reject them.

Cool, are we done yet? Unfortunately, no.

Final Edit

After completing the approvals and rejections, I read through every line again to ensure all the recent edits flow properly. Sometimes a sentence or paragraph can read okay when it's singled out, but sound off or out of place when surrounded by the rest of the story.

This is also when I start piecing together the front and back matter. As an indie author, an uploaded manuscript needs to include things like a title page, table of contents, publishing information, ISBNs, dedications and acknowledgments, additional author information, and a list of completed works by the author.


At this point, I will set up an ARC (Advanced Reader Copies). There are plenty of sites out there, but I use Through ARCs, you have the ability to get your book reviewed before it's available to the public, so when it does release, you're already ahead of the game with (hopefully) lots of stars.

I will post about the ARC online once it opens, usually with a set number in my head of how many digital copies I'd like to give out. Interested persons will message me and once they're signed up, I let the website do its thing. As the ARC's due date approaches, the website will email anyone who hasn't left reviews on your preferred sites, bugging them into submission.


As the ARC readers are doing their thing, I read through my work AGAIN, one final time, for peace of mind. And don't be surprised if some readers reach out with notes or even, yes, the dreaded typo that somehow battled its way through your multiple rounds of edits, just for five people to spot it.

Guess what? You're done!

And this is where I leave you. Your ARC will end, pre-orders will come and go, and the next thing you know, you're a published author.

No matter where you're at in your publishing journey, cheers to you. Allow yourself to take a moment and be proud. Nothing about this path is easy and you're out here freaking doing it!

Oh, and let me know when you have an ARC or new release available! Because I want to read it!

Lots of love and good luck to all my fellow indies out there!

Debra Leigh xo

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