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How to Publish a Short Story: Get Feedback and Edit Your Final Draft

A month ago, I urged you to come on a publication journey with me, one where I walk you through the process of planning, writing, and submitting a short story. This is the third post in the four-part series on how to publish a short story. By the end, you’ll have a story ready to send out to publications!

If you’ve been following along week by week, by now, you have a complete first draft. Just getting started? Look back at part one and part two to find your publication and draft your story. Then, rejoin me here.

This week, we’re going to concentrate on getting feedback and completing your last edit.

NOTE: Throughout this series, DO NOT post your work in the comments. I’m going to ask you to submit to a publisher at the end of this series, and posting it here would be considered publishing it. Our Becoming Writer community is a great place to workshop your story before you submit it.

Almost Done

By now, you should have a second draft. We’re in the homestretch now! Wipe your brow, pat yourself on the back, have a little dance party. Celebrate. A lot of writers don’t make it this far.

Ready to dive back in? Here’s what to do next:

6. Get Feedback

Stephen King has what he calls a “closed door” policy up to this point, meaning he writes his first couple drafts just for himself. Then he opens that door and lets others in to read it.

It’s time for you to open that door!

I know you’re all cringing right now. You mean I actually have to show this to someone? Yes. You do.

Feedback is the most important part of writing. Seriously. There is no substitute for getting someone else’s eyes on your work. You can go over it a hundred times and you’ll still miss things. Trust me. I see it all the time with pieces I post in our Becoming Writer community.

Whether it’s something simple like a missing word or misplaced comma, or something glaring like a character snafu or a world-building misunderstanding, your beta readers will catch it. But they can’t catch it if you don’t show it to them!

I recommend finding people other than family and friends to read your work. People who know you are less likely to give you any real criticism. Mostly you’ll just hear, “Oh, I like it!” and that’s it.

This isn’t only because they’re afraid of upsetting you, but they’re also probably not trained as an active reader. They might like or dislike your story, but can’t find the words to tell you why they feel that way.

If you can’t find a writing group, that’s fine, but make sure you try to push your beta readers to give you useful feedback. If you’re not sure how to ask for useful feedback, try taking a look back at the short story musts and mistakes I listed in the first post to get ideas on what questions to ask your betas. Specificity helps here, so don’t go with something simple like, “Did you like it?”

Pro tip: Don’t watch them while they read. I know it’s tempting (Are they going to laugh at that funny line? Are they going to tear up when that character dies?), but don’t. That’s too much pressure on them, and WAY too nerve-racking for you.

During this stage, just like I suggested between drafts one and two, you need to put your story away. You’ll be tempted to rewrite as your feedback comes in. A quick word change there, a sentence deleted here, and then you feel like you’ve got a whole new draft. Which makes you want to send all your friends your “new” draft.


There is nothing more annoying than having to start reading something from the beginning when you’re in the middle of critiquing. Sharing every little edit is a great way to lose beta readers. Let it lie.

Whether you have a writing community like Becoming Writer or you just have friends and family read your work, you MUST open that door.

7. Edit (Yes, AGAIN)

You’ve lived through the torment of waiting on betas. Congratulations! Now it’s time to take a look at all that feedback.

Your first instinct is going to be to get defensive and do a lot of groaning about how stupid your friends are and how they just “don’t get it.” Get that out of your system. Throw a toddler fit and jump up and down in frustration if you must. Then reread their feedback.

I’m going to tell you something you probably don’t want to hear: Your betas are most likely right.

Remember you’re writing for people to read it. That means your readers have to like it. If they don’t, you’ve got a problem.

Reread their feedback with an open mind and apply it as needed. This is often a frustrating and disappointing time for writers, but try not to let it get you down. (Again, your writing does not suck!) You’re learning, and feedback will only make you better in the future.

8. Final Draft: Line Edit

After you’ve implemented all the beta feedback, it really is down to the final stages. Your third (and final!) draft needs to be as clean as possible. An editor will let minor mistakes slide, but the story as a whole needs to be readable.

We’re not all grammar know-it-alls, and in truth, we don’t need to be. But you do need to work on the basics.

Now it’s time to get down to the nitpicky edits. You’re going to look for things like misplaced commas, split infinitives, icky dialogue tags (i.e. too many words that aren’t “said”), -ly words, -ing words, and passive writing. I like to print my stories out at this stage so I can make editing notes and highlight until it looks like a sick and bleeding rainbow. I think it makes this tedious process more fun.

Run the story through Grammarly and Hemingway. Don’t just change everything these programs tell you to, though. Think about what they want you to change and then decide if the suggestion is right for your story.

For example, Hemingway loves to point out sentences that are hard to read. Those sentences aren’t necessarily wrong, though. You have to decide if you want to simplify the wording or leave it as-is.

Read your story aloud. Read it backward. (My editor sister swears by this one.)

Reading aloud can help you pick out missed words, weird wording, and where commas (a.k.a. pauses) should go. Reading it word-by-word backward is something I admit I don’t do, but my sister says it helps her take the words out of context so her brain doesn’t get tricky and fill in things that aren’t there while she’s reading.

Try it backward if you want to, but definitely read it aloud forward.


You’re finished writing! Now it’s time for another celebration! I prefer dancing maniacally (read: badly) to overloud 90s music, but you do you.

Your story is now ready for publication. Two weeks from this posting you’re going to send that baby out! (I expect most of you have been waiting with bated breath for that post on how to publish a short story.) I’ll take you through all the crazy formalities of the submission process next time, so spend the next two weeks getting that manuscript to shine!

Do you have a writing group? Will this be the first time sharing your work? Let me know in the comments.

By Sarah Gribble
Source: thewritepractice.com

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5 Things You Should Know about Working with Beta Readers

First Edition Design Publishing

Another great post from Beyond Paper Editing

Friday, 18 July 2014

by Corina Koch MacLeod and Carla Douglas
@CKMacleodwriter @CarlaJDouglas

If you’re a self-publishing author, you’ve likely either read or been told that you need to hire an editor. But a professional edit costs money, and while self-publishing gurus will recommend that it’s money well spent, not every author has the wherewithall for such an investment.

Strange words coming from two editors, right?

If a professional edit isn’t currently in your budget, what do you do? Answer: find a beta reader! While beta readers are not editors — they likely won’t have the training, years of study, practice, or the inclination to snuggle up with The Chicago Manual of Style, just for fun — we do think that they can be helpful additions to your publishing team.


Profile of a Beta Reader

The point of acquiring beta readers is to garner information that will help you write a better book. So ideally, at least one of your beta readers should be the kind of person who’d be most likely to buy your book. Why? Their response to your book will help you gauge which parts of the book will work for your audience, and which parts may not.

We also recommend that you find a beta reader who knows more about writing craft than you do. (As editors, you knew we’d say that, right?) Think about it. One of the best ways to get better at anything is to get feedback from someone who’s more skilled and knowledgeable than you are. And if you can find a beta reader who has read lots of books in your genre and has a clear understanding of how your genre works, you’ve struck gold.


Where to Find Beta Readers

One way to find beta readers is to work your social media platforms. If you’ve been spending time to develop a positive online presence and a reputation for being helpful, an unforced opportunity to ask for help may present itself.

If you’re still building your author platform, consider joining a site like Scribofile, where you can offer feedback on other people’s writing to amass “karma points,” which you can then spend on acquiring feedback for your work.Wattpad is another option for finding beta readers. You can upload your book and write a compelling blurb that inspires people to read and respond to your book.

Local writing or critique groups may be an option for face-to-face feedback. Go to meetup.com to see if there are “crit” groups in your area.


Working With Beta Readers


Now that you’ve found your beta readers, consider the rules of engagement that will help you to create a healthy working relationship. Authors don’t usually pay beta readers, so any interaction needs to be positive and affirming. Presumably, this won’t be your last book, and treating your beta readers right will leave them open to helping you out next time, too.


Don’t Give Them a Draft


Your beta reader is still a reader — a reader who might tell other readers about your book. It’s important to treat your beta readers right, and that begins with what you ask them to read. Don’t give them your first draft. In fact, be sure that what you give them is the very best writing you can produce on your own. Write your draft and set it aside for at least a week. Go back to it and rewrite it if you need to. Then set it aside for another week — again. Revise, revise, revise, until it isn’t remotely possible for you to do any better.


Your Manuscript, Their Way


Before you send your manuscript to your beta readers, ask them what format they’d like it in. Beta readers might want to print your manuscript or read it on a Kindle. If they prefer the latter option, send them instructions for how to get your manuscript on an e-reader. Do whatever you can to remove any obstacles that will prevent your beta reader from carving out time to read your book.


Give Them Guidance


Let your beta reader know what kind of feedback you’d like from them. Develop a checklist with questions you’d like answers to. Do you want readers to comment on the strength of a character, or the organization of a concept? If you create a specific list of questions around content, beta readers won’t spend their time punctuating sentences. Adapt your revision checklist to meet the needs of each book your write.


Don’t Take it Personally


Remember, it takes a great deal of time to read and respond to a book. And your beta readers will have opinions that might sting a little. Be gracious for any feedback a beta reader gives you, even if you don’t agree with it. Ask yourself, “Will addressing this comment make for a better book?” If so, take their advice and apply it to your next revision. If not, whatever you do, don’t defend yourself. Your beta reader already knows your position (you’ve done as you’ve seen fit, as evidenced by your manuscript) but they don’t agree. Thank them for their comments and move on.


Return the Favour


Remember, you’re not paying your beta readers to read your book. They’re offering feedback because they want to help or they’re interested in your book’s premise or topic. If your beta reader asks you to be a beta reader in future, seriously consider returning the favour. And when it comes time to publish your book, give them a mention in your acknowledgements. Everyone likes to see their name in “print.”

Beta readers can play an important part in helping you create a better book — particularly at the revision stage of writing. After you’ve revised your book, based on their feedback, and once again made your book the best it can be, you’re ready for an editor (you knew we’d say that, right?).

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