Quick Guidance for Editing Your First Draft

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Congratulations, you’ve finished an entire novel! You may lean back into your chair to stare at the final page for a few minutes, celebrate with a drink, gloat to your family to whom you told you’d have one written years ago—whatever helps you tie up the experience of writing a book in a little bow.

I hope you feel good, because your work is nowhere near finished.

The First Cut is the Deepest

Give yourself some time to forget the elation you felt in typing ‘The End.’ Because you’re about the put on your editor hat and hone what you’ve created.

You’ll have to read the whole thing. Try to do it as quickly as you can. This is so you may find anything that may make your story awkward to your reader. You’ll be answering questions like:

Does the beginning of the novel make me want to continue reading?

Is the pace of the novel what I want it to be? Is there anything in it that slows it down or speeds it up too much?

Are there any plot holes? (This is something you’ll want other people to help you with as well. You may be too close to the trees to see the forest as the writer.)

Basically, you want to find out if your story is as complete as it needs to be. This may mean cutting away parts of it. Actually, it does mean cutting away part of it. In the throes of creating your story, if you’re anything like the majority of writers, there is too much in your story and it’s your job to decide what is unnecessary.

The Playground

It’s time to show your work to your friends, family, and colleagues. For me, this is the scariest part of the process. It’s the moment where you unlock the door to the room you spent so much time writing in and open it to the outside world, for better or for worse. It’s important to remember, it’s always for the better.

You’re writing a book for others to read. So, let others read it. Send it to a few of your most trusted people. Not the ones who have been unconditionally supporting you from day one. Well, maybe a couple of those. The people you do want to send it to are the ones who have no problem telling you what is wrong with your creation. If you missed the answers to some of the questions I wrote above, these people are the ones who will answer them for you.

But, do not rely on them to edit your first draft. That is your job and yours alone. Sorry, bub. It’s your story. They can help with small stuff, but they don’t know what you meant in the first draft. They get to destroy the second draft if they feel so inclined, because by then, your manuscript should say what you meant.

Here’s a little trick for you—send your manuscript through Grammarly. It’s an online service that will help you find some of the grammatical and punctuation mistakes you may have looked over.

Congratulations on finishing your first novel—now don’t stop until you get a cover on it.

And whatever you do, never stop writing.

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About Author

John Paul Schmidt is a former news journalist. Now he's a freelancer by day and bartender by night while he works on his novel.

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