The first draft of Princess of Shadows is complete. It may be an exaggeration to say I hear victory bells ringing, but not by much. I was close to despair a few times, trying to get to this point. Thank God.
Having said that, the war is not over yet. This puppy came in at 167,598 words, probably the biggest single chunk of writing I have ever done. Obviously it needs serious cutting; more than that, there are structural, pacing and character issues that need to be addressed.
I define a first draft as the point at which a hypothetical reader could read the manuscript and comprehend (I hope) the story arc as a whole, without major disruptions or breaks in continuity. All the major pieces, in other words, should be in place. The reader, however, would probably be asking questions like, “Why is this town named X in the first part and Y in the second?” and “Why did you put all this stuff in about the macro-economics of the Imperial grain market when we want to know if Kathy is going to get away from the cannibals?” and “How in hell did Character Z start out male and end up female without anything in the narrative about major surgery?” and so on.
In this particular story, I’ve got entire sections that I am not sure I need; characters who need to be re-written or eliminated; other sections that are too thin and need to be fleshed out. That’s aside from grammar and spelling checks, and eliminating the “holy crap, I can’t believe I wrote that!” elements. There’s a lot of work still ahead.
My next step will be an online read-through, spell-checking and fixing obvious grammar issues. Then I will apply myself to fixing the major issues with the story. Once that is done, I’ll do a hard-copy red-pen edit, which is usually where I catch the kind of sneaky errors that spell-checker misses and that tend not to be noticed on the screen (missing definite articles, etc.). Then it will be time to hand the novel over to my two beta readers, who have been very patiently waiting (well, sorta) for the next installment.
Once that’s all done, I will contract for a cover with my favorite cover artist, format the whole thing to Kindle standard, and upload it. My best guess is that I have three or four months of work still ahead of me.
But I am now over the biggest psychological hurdle I have for any story– actually completing it, however imperfectly. Once that is done, everything else is mopping-up operations and pursuit of an enemy in flight.