Whether you’re a planner or a pantser, it’s important to both ask and answer those hard questions about your newly completed novel (or even that one you’re dusting off).
Does it make sense?
Where might a reader get lost? Why?
What are the character arcs? Are they meaningful? Do they strike a chord?
Can you see the world I’ve created or is it still mostly in my head?
What are the most important moments? Are they as impactful as they need to be?
Do I over-explain anything?
Are there large chunks of text screaming for me to break them up or reduce content?
Is my opening just as strong as my closing? Why? Why not?
Is something missing?
You need to question everything.
Right now I’m staring at the 2nd draft of my new Urban Fantasy novel and that last point is flashing red. I’ve been mulling over the idea of diversity since the beginning of this draft, knowing that: the main character is of Italian descent, her best friend is Korean, the love interest happens to have family ties to Scotland, and there’s a hardware store owner from Britain (not to mention mermaids, vampires, lycans, dwarves, and any number of supernatural species). But simply ‘saying’ that these characters are this way doesn’t show their diversity. Yes, most of them are North American/XXXX but that doesn’t mean their heritage/familial culture doesn’t have a place of importance in what makes them unique and believable.
The biggest “missing” element I see at the moment is that my main character’s parents are from Italy. Not once do I have them speak Italian in the book. I personally have family on both sides who married Italian men and have a clear memory of a blended English/Italian (to varying degrees) spoken/understood in these homes.
I don’t have that in my story.
So, draft 3 sees me doing one last round of research (both online and via family) looking for those authentic moments of culture and diversity. None of this has a direct impact on the story or the individual character arcs, but the realism and truth even these little touches will bring, mean the difference between a novice writer and a professional 😉
Now, the questions I’ve listed above are by no means absolute. They are just a starting point. If you have any additional questions to add to this list, I invite you to mention them in the comments below.