Monday, November 26, 2012

What happens after the first draft?

You wrote a first draft. Yeah. Go you. So now what? The thing is there are many methods to what to do next, you have to find what works for you. I'm pretty much a panster. I do write the main story line on note cards to see where I want it to go, but otherwise, I write what the characters tell me. So, first drafts are torture for me. It's like an emotional roller coaster. I like all the new characters, but I don't like the jumbled mess it turns out to be.

I've discovered that once I finish that first draft, I need to let it sit. No matter how much my brain claws the back of my eyeballs to open it again, I try to wait a week at minimum. This time, I'm going to try and wait longer. Yes, it's killing me. The reason is to let those excited brain cells take a break from it. You see, the brain is still on it's perky wave that makes you think it's the best novel out there. Trust me, mine is not. I've checked, and my first draft needs loads of work, but that's okay. The skeleton is there.

So after you wait what do you start with? There are some methods out there that state to go through it with one thing in mind. In other words, each time you go through focus on one thing--character, plot, details, etc.

I plan to do this.

-First, I print it out and look at all the notes I made in the margins of what needs attention. I make notes in the margins at certain points while writing the first draft of where I want to check something or I know something needs more detail or research.

-Second, the plot. I'm going to go through and take a look at the plot line. Does it make sense? Does it flow?

-Third, character. This is a whole range. Are the characters consistent? Does my main character have an arc?

-Fourth, voice. Is the voice consistent? Does it match the character(s)?

-Fifth, line edits. Complete yuck, but yes, you must comb through and make sure that grammar is tip top.

Sometimes one of the steps is repeated and I may have forgotten one or two that may creep up when I go through it or after betas have read it. Another thing to think about while you're waiting for your first draft to stew is to write the query or a synopsis. It does help when you go through it. For me, it keeps me focused on the big picture.

What tips do you have when you approach revisions?

Have a great day!


  1. Oh gosh, first drafts are torture for me too. Actually, there are times throughout the first draft that I'll see a clear road map. Then I write, and it comes rather easily. But when I can't see what a character is trying to tell me...eek!

  2. I tend to edit the previous day's work as I'm writing so I eventually end up with a third or 4th draft by the time I write the end. However, when all is said and done, I do the same thing you do. Let it sit and stew and then pick it apart piece by piece.

    I don't have the luxury of printing it out, but somewhere during edits I always change the font. That helps me see words I've missed or misspelled.

  3. Those are good. I do outline extensively before I begin, because writing that first draft is tough for me and I want to get as much right the first time. I think the first thing I look at (and I print out my manuscripts as well) is where do I need to add some description and depth.

  4. I have to do multiple revisions. The most restructuring usually takes place between the first draft and the second. And then the fine-tuning and polishing happens over multiple passes through the manuscript.

  5. When I line edit, I go backwards. Starting at the end, and working backwards helps me focus on the structure of each sentence, and forget about the big picture stuff.

  6. I try to picture each scene in my head like a silent movie to make sure it's interesting visually, rather than just standing around talking (which i have a tendency to do).

    Moody Writing

  7. My edits depend on the latest craft book I'm in love with. :D

  8. I just keep revising and revising and revising, and reading it out loud until it sounds right and it flows. Not a great method, I admit! :)

    At a writing conference last year, a published author told me I should revise for 4 things: Action, Description, Dialogue and Interiority. You can work on all 4 things as you write the next draft, or you can revise for one thing each time. That's up to you.