After two years of writing for an average of 30 minutes a day, on and off, I finally reached the momentous milestone – a completed first draft. I am proud of how far I have come, but I am aware that this is merely the first step in the much longer process from blank page to publication. If you want to read more about both twins first draft, check out our posts on the matter here and here.
Like many writers, when I wrote that final sentence, alongside a gargantuan feeling of pride mixed with equal parts relief, my first thought was “what’s next?” Diving straight ahead into line edits and bashing out a revised second draft didn’t feel like the right way forward for me, considering that there were plenty of issues that needed to be addressed that stretched far beyond wording and punctuation. So I formulated an action plan that I hoped would help iron out these plot, structure and character-related creases and get me in a focused and confident position to move forward. If you are happy with the structure of your story and are keen to start editing the detail, Heather has written 2 really useful posts that can be found here and here.
Now, this was originally going to be one blog post, however, it ended up being way too long, so I’ve split it into sections, of which I’ll post one each day this week. Links to all sections can be found below, as soon as the last post has been made live!
So, the plan I followed goes something like this:
- Print it off.
- Have a preliminary read through and cut out any initial ‘waffle’ that doesn’t serve the scene, and overall plot.
- Create character sketches.
- Create a scene list.
- Using the printed draft and the scene list, assess each scene in line with a ‘scene/sequel’ framework.
5a. Cull any further waffle. Reorder scenes where necessary.
5b. Add in scenes/notes for key details that may have been missed first time around.
- Write a descriptive summary of the entire plot, from start to finish.
- Face the second draft with a new-found confidence that you will be able to write and edit with more focus and clarity.
Step 1 – Print it off
Printing off your draft can be helpful at all stages of writing, not only when you wish to line-edit. There are many benefits of having a printed copy of your first draft, here are just a few:
- It can be motivating – If you are anything like me, it’s easy to reach a stasis after completing the first draft – it happens to all of us at some point. However, I’ve found that there really is nothing like seeing hundreds of pages of all your hard work to give you the kick up the butt you need to keep plodding forward.
- It increases objectivity – I don’t know why, but if you ask most people whether they find it easier to proof something on screen or on a printout, the majority will say they find it easier to spot mistakes on a printout. Whether it is to do with the fact that you are viewing the content in a different environment, or you just naturally spend more time with a printed page, being able to take an objective and critical look over your draft is essential.
- Taking a red pen to it can be liberating – To put it bluntly, using a red pen to cut out swathes of unnecessary junk can feel really satisfying. Furthermore, if that copy is wonderfully written – yet totally redundant when it comes to serving a purpose in your narrative – you may find it easier to cross it out, rather than delete it entirely from your digital draft and send it flying into cyberspace heaven. The printout can feel like a safety net, where mistakes can be made, things added and taken away, without the fear of permanent change. I find I am more bold and ruthless this way – and it helps to control my hoarding tendencies!
You may be thinking that printing can be pretty darn expensive, and you may not trust your personal printer to cope with such copious amounts of ink and paper – I certainly didn’t! If that’s the case, don’t fear, because there are a few online services that can print your draft off for a very reasonable price. I would assume that most peoples’ first drafts will be okay printed in black and white, which immediately drops the costs dramatically, so don’t be put off having a look to see if you can find a service that you can afford. I used a website called Dox Direct. They were great, very efficient and gave me an accurate, extremely competitive price of £13.75 pounds for 270 black and white pages. To get the cost down further, I chose a double-sided print – my ego would have liked to have seen how thick the drafted pile would have been if I had gone single sided – but the slash in price was worth the smack to my ego. However, I did allow myself the luxury of having them hole-punch it for me – living the dream! And for the sake of a couple of pounds, it saved me plenty of faff and the frustration of doing it myself.
So there you have it, a quick round up of Step 1 of my first draft editing action plan. Comment below and let me know your thoughts on print-outs, and if you have any further tips and recommendations – I’d love to hear from you!
Left – me looking pretty rough at work with my ‘baby’ 😀
Right – what 270 (double sided!!!) pages look like printed #proudmoment