Excellent Strategies For Revising Your First Draft

By on May 11, 2017
Excellent Strategies For Revising Your First Draft - Writer's Life.org

When you finally finish the first draft of your book it can feel like a massive weight has been lifted from your shoulders. You got there! You did it! You achieved your goal!

The feeling of elation and excitement usually lasts approximately until you start re-reading said draft and discover that while you might have managed to type enough words to form a book, the actual content still needs a serious amount of work.

Revising your first draft can seem daunting, and often we worry that we might just have to go back and start all over again. In fact, some authors find the revision and editing process so difficult that they give up on their books altogether.

Let’s make sure this doesn’t happen to you.

While we’re not saying that revising your book will be easy, or that you don’t have to do it in the first place. If you plan carefully and apply the following excellent strategies, it will make this part of the book writing process feel a lot less stressful.

So what can you do to help yourself when it comes to revising your first draft?

Get into the right frame of mind.

If you are anything like me when you re-read your first draft your opinions of it are likely to swing from a slightly delusional ‘this is the best book anyone has ever written, ever’, to a mocking/ defeatist/ downright cruel ‘I can’t believe I thought I could do this, this writing makes me cringe, I am embarrassed for myself and should burn/delete this and then go and live in a hole.’

Neither of these opinions is helpful, nor are they likely to be true. It’s super unlikely that your first draft is going to win any awards, similarly, there is no reason to think that it is the worst thing anyone has ever done.

Try to embrace the doubt and go easy on yourself. Your book needs work, and that’s what the editing stage is for. Approach it with a positive and realistic mindset and you’ll be able to cope with the mammoth task of revising so much better.

Be thorough

Accept that the editing stage takes time and effort. Listen to your doubts and instincts and carefully read every single word. Make sure that each one counts, that each one carries weight, that each one is necessary. It’s time-consuming, sure, but if you do it right then you are so much more likely to be thrilled with your end result.

Break it down into chapters, and work backwards

If you work backwards you are less likely to miss errors and inconsistencies because you’ll be taking each chapter as it comes. Working from front to back means it is more likely you’ll slip into a comfortable reading pattern instead of carefully considering each sentence. Edit your book chapter by chapter and it will feel so much more manageable.

Look out for the important stuff.

Pay attention to the structure of your novel (no, it’s not too late to change it), the pace, how your characters develop, the detail, the key actions and turning points, the denouement and resolution. Write down the key points and actions in your novel and graph when they happen - this will give you a good idea if your story flows well and remains exciting and well-paced throughout.

Read aloud and then listen back

One of the most helpful things you can do is read each chapter aloud and then play it back to yourself. This will really help you to spot weaknesses  in your sentence structure, grammar and punctuation and highlight any words you repeat, any parts where the pace slows and where the dialogue doesn’t seem right. Playing it back will help you to understand your story in a different way, and you can get friends, partners and relatives to listen to it too and give you feedback that way.

Never stop trying to improve

When it comes to fiction writing there are always lessons to be learned so make sure you are constantly trying to improve and study the craft. You might suddenly learn something new or be inspired to try something different which could take your story to a whole new level.

If you can get into a positive mindset and see the editing stage as an amazing opportunity to make your book the best it can be you are far more likely to be willing to put the time and effort into revising you first draft that is required to make it shine!

If you do you’ll get that feeling of elation back in no time at all.

Bethany Cadman -author of 'Doctor Vanilla's Sunflowers'

Bethany Cadman -author of 'Doctor Vanilla's Sunflowers'

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