First Drafts and How To Improve Them

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FIRST DRAFTS AND HOW TO IMPROVE THEM

Let me tell you something about first drafts: They are never perfect.

Never.

You may think yours is, but I can bet in a couple years from now, you'll look back and go: "Ewwwwwww, I have absolutely no description and my characters aren't consistent!" Or something like that (I don't mean just typos; Everyone can fix those with a spellcheck and a quick read-over).

Trust me! I've been there! I joined a different writing website when I was younger, and I thought my book I posted was so great. People even told me it was good (And I chose not to listen to the one negative comment I got....I was foolish then).

Reading it over now, two or three years later, I see how immature I made the protagonist, who was supposed to be in college (Which, of course, the negative review had been about. The one I had chosen to ignore). The romance was superbly rushed and unbelievable. I had literally no description of anything but the character's hair, and I had introduced even that in a horrific way.

But when I first wrote it, I thought it was amazing. And perfect.

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Writers sometimes see their stories as their little babies, and, like a mother, either refuse to see or are blind to the faults of their baby/story. I wrote a story even six months ago that I'm rereading now and completely redoing. This will happen as you grow and learn as a writer, and then you'll look back and see how far you've come.

So, I guess I'm saying that if you look back on something you wrote and you feel disgusted, this is a good thing (But feeling like you're a horrible writer all the time is a different story. I'm saying if you look BACK and noticed you've changed, that's good, not thinking you're awful. That will be addressed in a different chapter).

HOWEVER, do not trash it. It's okay to lock it up in a folder somewhere and not look at it for years and years, but do not throw it out. Even if you never come back to write in this story, it's a good reminder of how far you've come and how you've improved. Also, if the idea is good but the writing is horrible, now that you know more about writing, you can edit it.

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Readers, even on here (yes, it's true!), tend to not see mistakes in somebody else's story they are reading if they think the plot is good, since they themselves aren't professionals either. So just because a bunch of them say your story is perfect and amazing, that doesn't mean it is. These people aren't all professional editors and writers.

 That's fine if your plot can hold a reader, then you must have a great imagination! Carry on with that! However, good imagination isn't enough if you're wanting to be a serious writer. You need to seriously devour your story (Maybe not right when you write it, but it can be a matter of months or years later) and tear it apart.

Yikes, this sounds painful. It can be. I've done it.

Tips for tearing your story apart.

1. Read your story out loud. -You'd be surprised how many times this little trick has helped me catch many, many mistakes. Not only grammatically, but also story-wise. If saying it out loud sounds really awkward, then your character probably wouldn't be thinking it or saying it either. It helps you make sure everything flows naturally and doesn't sound like a choppy story.

2. Memorize your story. -What I mean by this is think of the little facts you included (E.g. Maybe two characters birthdays are on the same day, but then you forgot about that later. Maybe an animal is he, but you thought it was a she later on. Maybe one character had a certain color of eyes, but you made their eyes different in another chapter. Etc.) Often the mistakes in these little things will go unnoticed because the author is too excited to get to the important parts. But you have to remember, every part is important. STAY CONSISTENT.

3. Question yourself. -Think about the setting. Then think about your story. Do they go together? Is everything realistic? If you're writing a real-life story in real time, try to imagine these events you wrote about actually happening. Would somebody really have five loved ones die one after another without a reason and no connection at all? (Yeah, we all get that you did this to make us feel sorry for the poor character, but it's not realistic! Unless there's a serial killer or a deadly virus, avoid it.)

-Also, think about the character's personality and then think about your story. Are you consistent? If your character is described as shy, then right off the bat she won't be jumping off walls and singing in the middle of the mall. It's okay to have her gain confidence throughout the story, but make sure we see that transformation, don't thrust us into it unexpected. REMEMBER the qualities you gave your character, and make sure those are consistent throughout the story.

4. Try a rewrite. -Stop! Don't go back and look at that first chapter. If you do, you'll be tempted to copy it nearly word for word. This is something you do at least a month after you've written a story or chapter, when the content is faint on your mind. Recall the storyline of the first chapter. NOT word by word, but what big events happened. If you think you missed an event, don't worry about it. Look later. Now what you do is open up a new Word document and try writing the first chapter again. Don't think about how you did it the first time, because then you'll be influenced to do it the same. All you need to remember is the main storyline. Okay, so she went to the mall with her friends and ran into this hot guy. Write about it, using all the knowledge about writing you've learned since you wrote it the first time. Pour your heart into it! When you're satisfied, compare it to your old version, the first draft. See if its better. If it is, I think it's time for a rewrite.

5. Have someone tear it apart for you. - NOT a friend, unless you trust them to be brutally honest. Find someone on here who is willing to tear apart the plot, the writing, and everything about your story in order for it to be better. Here's the catch though: You must be willing to accept the criticism. Don't get all huffy-puffy because he thinks it's too unrealistic that your main hero was able to defeat fifty guards (yeah, and it's just a normal guy) and jump out the window and survive to run and save the princess from the most evil tyrant in the world. (If this is the most evil tyrant in the world, how is the hero supposed to defeat him?) Take their advice seriously. Don't treat the story like your precious baby, NO! Tear it apart. Demolish it. Then piece it back together even better than before. You'll thank the person for it later, trust me. Remember how I told you about how I was unwilling to accept criticism? Yeah, that changed when I realized the lady was ABSOLUTELY right. It took me two years, but now I'm so, so grateful for any criticism because that's how I will grow and improve as a writer. Accept it. Embrace it.

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Those are my tips if you're wanting to improve your first draft. (Well, besides the obvious ones of adding descriptions appealing to the five senses and characters thoughts.)

So have fun!

CHALLENGE: If you have a story that you think is good, but you want to perform these tests and see, then don't be afraid to do it. If it's been over a month since you wrote the first chapter, I suggest you try #4 and see what happens. If it turns out a lot better, then try rewriting more than just the first chapter. Experiment with your story using the tips I've suggested above, and if you try a rewrite be sure to appeal to the five senses like we talked about earlier!


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