I once read somewhere that there are three phases a writer will go through before a work is ready for consumption:
- You write the first draft for yourself.
- You write the second draft for your audience.
- You write the third and last draft for publication.
So take heart, dear one, though you’ve only finished draft numero uno. It may seem like a gargantuan task now, but you’ll be at the third draft in no time at all.
First thing’s first: put that shitty first draft away, you’re gonna hurt somebody
No, I don’t care if you suddenly figured out what you need to do in order to fix that one chapter/scene/sentence. Print out the shitty first draft (SFD) in a font that’s different from the one you typed it in (I’ll explain tomorrow), put it in a special binder, kiss it, hug it, do whatever you need to do in order to say goodbye. Then hide it from view for a week at the very least. A month is better.
This time away from the SFD is imperative because it brings objectivity. The less you remember about writing it, the more you will read it like someone who has no idea what to expect from you and won’t have any reason to say “Oh, it’ll get better by chapter four.”
If you must write, start the next book. I bet you have a sequel all planned out, so this is the perfect time to start.
Once you come back to the SFD, don’t edit at the computer
Why? Because we read superficially at the computer. It comes with surfing the internet. Superficial editing, I like to say, is the same thing as revising. You’re moving main points around, and that’s not what we wamt.
Why? Because editing is not revising.
To revise is to alter what is there, to shuffle things around and perhaps make a bigger mess than you already have. To edit is to have the guts to slash or add a sentence/page/subplot if it will enhance the whole.
So find your printed copy and your favorite pen (I know you have one, we all do), crawl into your favorite chair, and get ready for the long haul. Because this is going to get messy. Comment with your theory on why it is so hard to put the first draft away to enter the free Worderella critique contest.
Books to Buy: Self-Editing for Fiction Writers
This five part series is my participation in Lynn Viehl’s Left Behind & Loving It (LB&LI) convention. I’ll tackle a different facet of editing each day:
- Monday: Put that shitty first draft away
- Tuesday: Be brutally honest
- Wednesday: Show me, don’t tell me
- Thursday: Tell me, don’t show me
- Friday: Focus on those nitty gritty details
Read more for details about winning a free Worderella critique at the end of this week!