EDITING YOUR FIRST DRAFT: HOW TO PREPARE YOURSELF
Ahh, the editing process. A writer either loves it or despises it to the very pits of hell. I am one of those writers that wants to send editing to the devil, so I’m with all of you when you dread the process.
I found when editing my first novel, Unspoken Words, that it felt as though the whole editing process was thrown on me all at once, and I had a lot to focus on. It wasn’t until I finished my first draft for my second novel, Boy.Girl.You, that I actually took a breath and decided to research effective ways to edit a novel. I found numerous ideas and strategies, but I found preparing myself for the hurdle was the best thing I could have done.
Check out Editing Your First Draft: How to Prepare Yourself below.
SLOW IT DOWN
After you have finished writing your novel, it’s all very exciting. And it should be, right? You guys deserve to be ecstatic, bouncing off the walls and screaming to the world that you have written a novel. By all means, go ahead and do the lot, my friends, but afterwards, it’s time to land your feet back on the floor and slow it down.
The very worst mistake you could make when entering the first editing process of your drafted novel is to head straight on into it. The story is still very fresh in your mind, and you will be far too familiar with your work.
Realistically, you should wait at least a month before you edit your novel. Now, I know this seems like a long time, but you will be thankful for the wait. In the meantime, work on your writing style, your next book outline, or if you are in the fantasy genre which I am entering now, work on your world building.
BE A READER, NOT AN AUTHOR
This is something I didn’t do the first time I wrote a novel, I’ll be honest. When I entered the editing process, I literally jumped right on in and began editing. I didn’t actually sit down and read my novel from a reader’s perspective, and I regretted it.
So, my fellow writers, take this piece of advice, sit down with a nice cup of coffee or by the beach, and read your novel from a reader’s perspective. NO EDITING. Yes, the truth is your novel is probably going to suck, and this will shock you. It will make you think that you aren’t a good writer, and are probably wasting your time. Breathe, my friends. These thoughts are okay! This is why we have the editing process.
Once you have finished reading from a reader’s perspective, it’s time to go back over your work as an editor. Now, I have always strongly believed that a notebook is an author’s best friend, I know mine is. His name is Samwise the Brave. As you re-divulge your novel, write down any inconsistencies, plot holes, questions you or the reader might have and the answers to them, grammatical mistakes, spelling mistakes, story mistakes, or any other major mistakes.
RELATED: How to Write a Novel Outline
FILL IN THOSE PLOT HOLES
Plot holes are literally inevitable. You are going to find them in every first draft you every write. I am in the process of writing my first fantasy novel, and I can tell you that when I wrote my first draft I thought it was great until I was falling down a hole every second page. Now, I’ve scrapped almost the whole thing, and am focusing my time on my world building so that I have content in front of me to use when I write the second draft.
Go back over your notebook, pick out those unanswered questions or parts of your story that aren’t fitting, and fix them up. Yes, it may take time, but enjoy it. A good novel shouldn’t be rushed, and you don’t want to be fixing up countless plot holes in your second draft.
GET RID OF THE WEAK
This part hurts, especially when you have to cut away your characters and send them on another journey to the pages you’ll probably never use. Unfortunately, it has to be done. You will stumble across parts of your story or characters that will make you question whether they are advancing the plot forward, or holding it back. Whether or not the scene or character is really necessary, or filler content that doesn’t need to be there.
Everything in your novel, from the story to the characters, must serve a purpose. If they don’t, then cut them. This is the best way to bring your novel in to create a tight and clean story, even if it does hurt.
TOO FAST OR SLOW?
The pacing of your novel is extremely important. I’ve read novels that read way too slow, and I lose interest eventually. Other novels pace themselves far too fast, and I struggle to keep up with the characters and the story. Feels like I’m running a marathon!
Go back over your story and check that you are on the right path, following your novel and plot outline. If you haven’t written one down or have it thrown across a number of pages, then you can check out these articles I wrote on How to Start Planning Your Novel Today and How to Write a Plot Outline.
CHECK THOSE NAMES
An awesome tip I have for you guys to make sure you check when editing your first draft is to check your names. Whilst they may sound cool in your planning process, they might sound silly or over the top in your actual story.
I found that when writing my fantasy novel, the names are going to be strange and foreign. That doesn’t mean, however, that they need to be so ridiculous that the reader can’t pronounce them.
After you’ve checked their names, it’s time to check their story arc. Are your characters heading in the right direction? Have you stayed true to your outlining process for these characters? What has changed since writing the story? What doesn’t fit the way you’d like it to?
These are all very important questions. If you have a character plot arc, then your story is driven by your characters. Therefore, you need to make sure you get them right, my friends. If you haven’t, then you should get to know them. Check out my free Epic Guide to Character Questionnaires to help you get started.
HOOK THE READERS AND REEL THEM IN
A narrative hook occurs at the start of a story and is meant to “hook” the reader so that he or she keeps turning pages. It’s that initial experience where your reader will think ‘this book is going to be great’ or ‘I don’t know how I feel about this’.
The best hooks are usually just the first sentence of the book. Yep, that’s right. The very first sentence, my friends, so make it a good one! Don’t worry if you don’t get the perfect opening sentence straight off the bat, it took me several sentences and frustrated starts to get mine!
LUCKY LAST: THE SECRET WEAPON!
Grammarly is a life saver for all sorts of writers, whether it be for a novel, essay, article, query, resume, you name it!
So, what is it exactly? Grammarly is the world’s leading automated proofreader. It checks for more than 400 types mistakes in the following areas:
- Contextual spelling
- Sentence structure
- Vocabulary enhancement
- Advanced issues
As I write this article to you right now, I am using Grammarly, and I have never looked back.
All finished. Let’s chat!
Congrats, fellow writers. The editing process is a daunting and dark place to venture, but you’ll soon see the light, you just have to prepare yourself for the journey ahead.
Let me know if my Editing Your First Draft: How to Prepare Yourself treated you well, and if you think there is anything missing that you would like to learn about.
Hit me up in the comments, I’d love to hear from you!