Many writers are confused about what happens after you have managed to get the first draft out of your head and onto the page. There are some who mistakenly go straight to the publishing process. However, there are a few more steps to take before you can get there.
For many writers, the first draft is just the bare bones of the finished work. It should be an introductory draft where you get all your ideas on to paper. Anything is possible in this draft, write down everything that’s in your head and worry about the editing in later drafts. Once you get this done, go ahead and print it out and go through it and make notes or corrections as needed. Take your time on this step to make sure you can really clean it up before you go on to the second draft.
Your second draft should be where you create the structure and make sure the story has a good flow. Here you can decide if the story works or if you want to go back to the drawing board. This is the point where you have an actual manuscript. You should go over your work a few times and make sure it makes sense. Most publishers recommend a structural edit which is usually given to you as a separate document, broken down into sections based on what is being evaluated. After you get your edits back, take your time making any changes you may need to.
One step that not a lot of authors use is having beta readers. Beta readers are a trusted group of people who evaluate your book from a reader’s perspective. You should only get to this step when you are completely satisfied with your book. You should generally pick 5 to 6 people who enjoy and understand the genre of your book and who can spot issues.
Another step that is recommended is line editing. This step can be pretty brutal. Line edits are more about word choice, grammar and sentence structure. Try not to take all the editing and red ink to heart. The goal is to make your book stronger and your readers will appreciate you for it.
After you have made all the revisions from the beta readers and the line editor, give your manuscript one last final proof-read from a professional and get ready for the publication process!