What’s the best way to edit your first draft?
That’s the subject of this video, which details Step #3 in the “Getting to the Publishable Point process.
Step #1 was to figure out whether you need to put in research time before you get started.
Step #2 was to complete a first draft.
Both of those videos are available by simply clicking on the link in the description below, then choosing the appropriate link in the transcript provided. But for those of you who have followed so far or are wondering what’s the best way to edit your first draft on your own, here’s the secret to Step #3.
Stop being a writer, and start being a reader
When you complete a first draft, you’re oh so proud of your accomplishment, as well you should be. You put a lot of time, effort and emotion into it!
Yet a first draft is never a final draft. So there’s still a ways to go before it’s to the publishable point.
No true work of art is ever completed without stepping back and setting the artistic ego aside. That means we writers have to tell our creative selves a fond TTFN, and become much more closely attached to our inner critics for a time.
We’re now readers. And we want a great story! Or else.
First drafts are just not great stories. They’re bound to feature at least some, if not all, of the following issues:
Plot points that don’t connect well
Characters that don’t properly work with or in or through the story
Dialogue that’s trite, unnecessary, unnatural or outright embarrassing
Setting details that are unnecessary or underdeveloped
Sentence structure that doesn’t flow well
Words that should be missing
Awkward narrative aspects
To identify those problem points, just start reading over your first draft. Start with the beginning and end with the end, stopping in between whenever your inner reader goes, “Huh?” or “Ew!” or some such thing.
In those cases – and there might be a lot of them, particularly if you’re new to the first draft-editing process – don’t let your inner writer take over. You’ll be doing yourself and your future outside audience a disfavor if you try to justify leaving those areas as-is. Let your inner reader hold that ego back while your inner editor fixes the problem.
Then move on to the next sentence or section.
This is a marathon, not a sprint. So don’t expect to appropriately read the whole manuscript over in a day, a weekend or even a week. More than likely, it’s going to take you a month at least.
With that in mind, stay properly hydrated. Take regular breaks. And work hard to make your inner writer pipe down.
This is the most consistently effective answer to the question of what’s the best way to edit your first draft. At least as far as I’ve found so far.
If you have a better idea, let me know!