First drafts: what they should and shouldn’t be A first draft should have neither too much nor too little importance attached to it. It is a place to work out ideas and explore your story’s potential, but it is generally not the right place to worry about rewrites or line edits.
Writers approach first drafts in a number of different ways. Very few writers produce polished first drafts, and the ones who do tend to be experienced authors. However, even most experienced writers extensively rewrite and revise their first drafts.
Hi! So I know someone just recently asked something along similar lines but I'm nearing the end of the first draft of my first fantasy novel. I'm very excited but nervous about the editing process. I'm worried that I won't be very good at "killing my darlings" especially when it comes to scenes/ideas I've started to grow attached to. Do you have any advice for the process as a whole?
As someone whose least favorite part of writing aside from cranking out the middle of a first draft is the first round of edits, here’s how I cope:
Once you finish your first draft, celebrate. Seriously, that is a major accomplishment and deserves a big pat on the back, a special libation of choice, a couple happy dances, and maybe more. Enjoy and be proud of the fact that you made it through a first draft.
Then, let it sit for a while. Walk away from it completely. Drafts need some time to revel in their completion, and so do you. A completed draft should be a precious item for a bit.
“A bit” can range from a few days to a few months – depending on deadlines, life, other projects, etc. Some projects sit longer than others; the key is to try and give yourself enough time to distance your mind from the joy of having finished something and switch to the practical mindset that a good portion of what you wrote is going to be changed.
Once it’s time to pull that draft out again, there are two reading tactics that tend to work well from an editing perspective.
1) Read your draft out loud. If things sound awkward out loud, they’re going to likely read as awkward. Read your writing as punctuated. You’ll find it easier to use punctuation properly and as you intended when you read aloud.
2) Approach reading your draft not as the creator, but as a reader. It’s a different frame of mind to get into, but try and imagine you’re a reader picking up your book for the first time, knowing nothing about the world, the characters, the story, any of it. Is it engaging? Do you understand what’s going on? Are the characters fully formed people? Are you being told too much, or not enough? Are there any gaps between chapters or time jumps that leave you with questions? All these are things to constantly ask from a readers’ perspective and make notes on while starting to revise your draft.
For myself, I also find it easier for the first round of edits to have the draft printed out rather than editing on screen. Everyone is different, but having the ability to physically cross out sections and make notes engages me a lot more than deleting sections and making comments on a screen. You also tend to catch more mistakes when you’re looking at a draft in a different format than you wrote it. If nothing else, make a copy of the draft for editing and change the font and/or background color.
Once you’ve gone through and marked and notated your edits, it’s time to incorporate them in the draft, as well as work on revisions based on your notes. Sometimes it’s tempting to rewrite or add during editing, but on the first pass it’s usually better to approach like the first draft while writing – just get through it. Take lots of notes, even work on a section if you want to write something to get a break from the editing – but write it in a different document or by hand to insert later, because what you write will be kind of a mini-first-draft of its own.
Think of it like this – drafting is homework time, sitting down in comfy clothes and just getting the work done. Editing is looking at that work like a teacher, assessing its strong and weak points, offering ideas on how it could be more polished and better expressed. Revising is taking those notes from the teacher and incorporating them to rewrite the work as a stronger piece, with both your original ideas and intent and the teacher’s notes. They all engage different methods of thinking but are all aimed at the same goal.
Editing and revising exist to make your story and characters better. Sometimes that means cutting and changing things that you, as a creator, love but as a reader won’t make any difference (or, in some cases, any sense). It’s one part of a very involved process needed to tell the best story possible. Just like writing, it has its pitfalls and rewards, but in the end it’ll only strengthen your work. Approach it with determination, and you can do it.
You hear the story of the horrors done to my body, and you say, “We aren’t all like that, you know. Let me show you how gentle my hands are.”
It’s not your fault, you say, that your teeth are the same shape as his teeth.
But I was swallowed whole and they asked what I was wearing.
I was swallowed whole and they said, “That’s what happens to little girls who climb in bed with monsters.”
There are mornings when my own bedroom looks exactly like the middle of the woods.
I’m not calling you dangerous. I’m just making sure you understand the moral of the story. This has nothing to do with the threat of strangers in the forest. The moral of the story is, I will gut you if I need to. I will carve my way out with only my teeth.
Dear Dad, I left home today to become the very
best. Is that why you’re still out there?
Dear Dad, I watched my Metapod evolve today. He started off as a tiny thing and
today, today he sprouted rainbows from his
back and protected me from danger. One day I’ll show you how strong I’ve
Dear Dad, Mom doesn’t tell me much about you, but I think it’s because if I knew about all of your great accomplishments, I’d feel left out or even scared of you. Still, it’d be nice if she didn’t hide your photos.
Dear Dad, I haven’t been home in months and I’m starting to miss it. How do you stay away for so long?
Dear Dad, I just left Lavender Town. Everything was soaked in death and ghosts and purple. Was that
your favorite color? Because, I think I saw you.
Dear Dad, There’s this girl I like. But I’m not sure if I like-like her. How did you know you liked Mom?
Dear Dad, I lost to someone so strong but I came back today and overcame! I didn’t think I could do it, but I
did. I didn’t run away. So, why did you?
Dear Dad, Mom called me today and asked when I’m coming home. I told her that I didn’t know.
Dear Dad, I think I want to keep traveling. I’ve already beaten the best trainers here, so I should move on, right? I feel like staying in one place is
I knew you would understand.
Dear Dad, My friends said that I cry in my sleep which is ridiculous. I don’t have sad
dreams. I usually dream about mom and me and you.
Dear Dad, We were playing a game where we tried to match moves to our personalities. Misty is surf because she can take us places that no one else could. Brock is strength because he never lets an obstacle stand in our way. They said I was Flash because I’m always the light at the end of the
tunnel. What would you be?
Probably Fly. Or Cut.
Dear Dad, I came home today and remembered exactly why I wanted to leave.
Dear Dad, I came home today and never wanted to
Dear Dad, I don’t care if you’re not the very
best. You should come home.
Dear Dad, Every day I try harder and harder and
harder. I know you can too. I love you.
Motivational U-KISS - I made these for a KISSme sister and she aggressively encouraged me to share them. Images are not mine and the haters quote was inspired by Willam Belli. They aren’t worded the best, but maybe they could inspire KISSmes to make their own posters with actual quotes from the members? I don’t know~ Just please enjoy! ^^;
“Finish the damn book. Nothing else matters. Stop second guessing yourself and write it through to the end. You don’t know what you have until you’ve finished it. You don’t know how to fix it until it’s all down on the page.”
I’ve come to the conclusion that no one can see their own beauty. We’re like vampires. We can admire another’s pretty smile or pale skin but when a mirror is handed to us we don’t know what we’re looking at. And I think it’s sad. We can name so many things we like about someone else with such confidence but when it comes to ourselves we rarely see anything we like with complete certainty. I hope one day someone creates that mirror. I’d like to meet someone who loves themselves. Truly loves themselves. I hope one day I can be that person, but for now I’m okay with glitter pulsing from my veins. When you leave I’ll fill your suitcases with mirrors of all kind. Because I dont think you’re a vampire and one day, maybe you might accidently look in the mirror and see what I see. I’ll build you a house of mirrors one day so you’ll be reminded just how great you are, even when you’re taking a massive shit. Baby don’t question the stars, they’re older than you, and they’re already dead so that would be fucking stupid. But even though the stars in your eyes are dead, you are alive. You are here. And you are so damn beautiful.