So you wrote a first draft. Then you closed the file and wrote other things and had a busy, exciting life for a month or so. Now what?
Open the file and do a read through from start to finish without making any changes. Keep a running list of issues including plot points problems, character concerns and structure stuff. Once you’ve gotten through the manuscript from start to finish, it’s time to get to work.
Don’t get freaked out by the things you noticed in your read-through. By putting distance between you and the first draft, you’ll find things you might never have caught had you gone right into an edit. Time and space allows you to look at the work more critically. And be critical. This is where all you’re creativity can be funneled into improvements. By attacking the first draft, you move onto the road of creating a fabulous work instead of just a draft.
There is a saying in the writing world – kill your darlings. That’s a reference to eyeing your work as critically as possible. If you don’t attack your work and do everything possible to keep the story flowing, keep the words moving forward, you’re book will get bogged down in those little darlings that you love. In your book, every word must keep the reader engrossed, wanting to turn the next page.
When it comes to your darlings, it’s often smart to cut them from the piece and put them in a folder. You may be able to find a better place for them somewhere in the main piece or in something completely unrelated. But it is imperative that when editing, you do everything possible to power up your book.
Often, the second pass can address the bigger problems, while the third pass fine tunes the piece.
More often than not, one pass is not enough. Some authors edit the same manuscript a dozen times, others just two or three, while some take more passes. As exhausting and repetitive as it may feel, with each pass you should see improvement in your book.
Revision is not a bad thing. It’s a necessary part of the process. No matter how good you think your first draft is, it’s not. Revise and make it work.
Coming soon: the benefit of critique groups and professional editing services.