HOW TO EDIT YOUR DRAFT: a checklist

4.2K 163 37

HOW TO EDIT YOUR DRAFT: a checklist

So, you've finished your first story. CONGRATS! But trust me, that was the easy part. Now you have the tedious job of EDITING.

*cues howls of tortured souls*

So, here's a few things I do:

1. TAKE A BREAK 

Now, seriously, do this. You finished: yes. But don't jump back into it. Give it a break, work on something else. THEN, after a few months even, return to it with a fresh mind. Not only would you have progressed as a writer (because trust me, a few months do make a difference), but it will feel like meeting old friends. The story will be new again. Fun. 

2. READ IT

Print out your story. Having a physical version of it is so much better. It puts you in a different mindset and makes it feel even more 'fresh'. While reading through, ignore minor mistakes. Instead look at the book as a whole.

3. DRAFT 1: REVISION #structural

So, you've read your book just like your reader would. What's it like? Good? Bad? Where is it strong? Where is it weak? 

At this point we're not focussing so much on your actual writing (showing vs telling etc.), but the plot.

Think of things like:

- Is there themes that can be developed more (like shades of grey between good and evil) 

- Are there plot holes? (Do characters just appear randomly, or disappear for no reason?)

- Is the ending set up well? Does it have a strong payoff?

- How strong are the character arcs? Have there been characters forgotten or wasted?

- Do you properly exploit the protagonist's fatal flaw? Does they earn their ending?

- Does every scene serve a purpose?

- Is there a consistent, engaging pace throughout the novel?

- Is everything believable? 

A simple rule: if something DOES NOT advance your plot or characters: delete.

4. DRAFT 2: PROOF #linebyline

Once you believe your plot is at its strongest, now you get to that tedious line by line editing. This is where you rip your story to shred, and begin to doubt literally every word of your story! So much fun.

Here's a few ways to do it and things to look out for:

- Read aloud! (Trust me, it helps. Alot.) 

- Fix up spelling and random mistakes (like have a '{' randomly in your dialogue... It happens.) 

- Delete words such as 'was' (See STRENGTHEN WRITING P.1) 

- Delete things such as 'I felt' / 'I feel', and instead show how they feel (See HOW TO SPOT SIGNS OF TELLING) 

- Cut up long sentences (See STRENGTHEN WRITING P.1) 

- Delete unneeded words (See STRENGTHEN WRITING P.2) 

- Fix awkward sentencing so everything is smooth

- Make sure your sentences are varied to create interest 

etc.

5. BETA

As you are so involved in this world, it's impossible for you to pick up every mistake, both in revision and proofing. It's like how you miss words when you're typing; and still miss the mistake even when reading aloud (this also happens a lot!). So please give your latest draft to a variety of trusted readers and writers you know for feedback.

Check out 'Question 9: How Can I Stick with a Story?' for more on this.

EXTRA

Many authors have said your Second Draft is your First Draft minus 20-30%, but like everything, this rule is fairly relative. My second draft usually explodes as I rework character and plot arcs and come up with all these new strands and scenes. But being concise is very important. Thus I usually do a massive cut down in my next revision. But everyone's work flow is different in the end: hell, every story is a different process.

It comes down to this: make sure every word counts.

A Lesson On WritingRead this story for FREE!