Writing a novel comes in stages, first drafts to seconds drafts to third drafts, and on it goes. The first draft is always a challenge, and often a mess. So if your first draft is fractured or all over the place, here’s some tips to fix it.
Create a timeline
A timeline is a great way to keep track of how your story moves. You may already have this from the planning stage, but if not, now is a good time. I couldn’t work out what was making my draft so broken, and it turned out to be my lack of knowledge of the timeline. Once I put one in place, everything got easier.
Break down each chapter
Copy each chapter into it’s own document. Break it down. Check your opening lines, make sure they will draw the reader in. Bulk out the sparse paragraphs and cut down the ones that are too wordy. Look out for overuse of the same words or phrases. Search for cliches. And craft an end-of-chapter sentence that will force the reader to turn the page.
Delete what’s not needed
Cut the crap! But seriously, find those wordy descriptions, those unnecessary words, those boring pieces of dialogue and cut them out. It happens, in a first draft. We over explain because we’re trying to understand it ourselves. We tell, more than we show. This is a great stage to whittle away what’s not needed, to make things more subtle, and to keep things concise.
Build upon your descriptions
Anybody else guilty for writing ‘description here’ or ‘blah blah blah’ when you’re trying to get the story down for the first time? I know I am. Fix the draft by filling out the descriptions, and building on the ones you’ve already got. Make them sing. The reader should be able to hear, smell and see everything that’s happening.
Make note of your initial thoughts. Be honest with yourself. Is a chapter too dull, a character description too weak, and plot line too obscure? Jot down your thoughts as you work through your draft, because it’ll help you fix the things that are broken. You can then use these thoughts to enhance your editing when you move onto the next draft.
Start again from the top
Speaking of moving onto to the next draft…here it is. Start again from the top. No-one would publish a first draft, and to be honest, most second drafts will be un-publishable too. So start again. Go right back to chapter one and do it all again…and again…until you’re happy.
Share your editing tips below, I’d love to read them!