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February 3, 2016

The Sex on the Third Date Debate

February 3, 2016

How To Edit A First Draft of Anything

February 3, 2016

I’m in edit mode on a few new projects, which makes me realize how much I hate being in edit mode on new projects. It’s overwhelming. For the first few days I can’t do anything but read through from the top at one page per hour tweaking, re-tweaking and obsessing until I think it sounds right, maybe. I get stuck in the perfection of it all. I figure I’ll just know what’s wrong if I read it enough times, maybe at a different coffee shop? In different shoes?

But when I can stop being a teenager who doesn’t want to write her book report, I remember that I have previously employed a few pretty effective tactics to take down a first draft with less pain slash hours searching smoky eye tips on Pinterest.

Tactic One: The Read-For-What-You-Love Approach

What is editing but finding everything terrible about your writing and fixing it, right? Wrong. It is just as important, I’ve found, to figure out what you enjoy about the first draft so you can make more of that happen. Also it makes me happy to enjoy my own successful work and, I know this is revolutionary, but I think you can be both happy and a writer. So I figure out what I like, figure out why and try to do that on all the pages.

Tactic Two: The Helpful Reader Approach

Maybe you’re not the most qualified person to give notes on your first draft? You might be too emotionally connected. You might be too inexperienced in the genre. You might be so freaking tired of this damn thing that you can’t bear the thought of looking at it for another second. Ask for help. (That was me talking to myself. You might be totally qualified to edit your first draft. In which case, want to edit mine?)

I like to send first drafts to people with a little direction on what kind of help I need. Example: Hey I’m feeling like this first draft is a little inactive for my main character and a little slow in the middle. Could you give me some thoughts on that and anything else that pops out. People appreciate knowing what to read for, at least I know I do.

Tactic Three: The Edit Without Editing Approach 

My favorite, obviously. Before I touch a word of the actual writing I lay down my planned changes inside the piece, bolded. I will cut this next section and replace it with dialogue that says blah blah blah. This paragraph needs more focus on the relationship with her ex-boyfriend. New dialogue here – something like yadda yadda yadda. I go through the entire project like this until I’m certain of all the changes I’m going to make for the next draft. Obviously things adjust as I actually write, but now I have a road map, and I can tackle editing every day in small chunks that are already determined.

 

More to come as I develop them out of sheer desperation. But just in case you’re not quite there yet, here are 5 Steps to the Perfect Smoky Eye. Good luck!

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3 comments

  1. One thing that also helps me is reading things on paper… I know printing an entire first draft can be expensive, so maybe start with a few pages and see how you like it? When I see things on paper and can physically mark them up with a pen, I feel like I am more productive than staring at a sea of text on a screen.

    That said, I LOVE editing, and reading drafts/etc, so if you ever do need another of those helpful readers, keep me in mind! You know where to find me. 🙂

  2. I really like this new perspective that you bring to editing! I have always dreaded the editing process, and at times have been offended by it. On the other hand, I do really enjoy having a “helpful reader” check over my stuff and provide feedback. So often we feel like it is about us, when in reality it’s about our work, and evolving our first drafts into an ideal state! (I always have to keep in mind that this state is only achievable with help). Thank you for this article!

  3. I really like this new perspective that you bring to editing! I have always dreaded the editing process, and at times have been offended by it. On the other hand, I do really enjoy having a “helpful reader” check over my stuff and provide feedback. So often we feel like it is about us, when in reality it’s about our work, and evolving our first drafts into an ideal state! (I always have to keep in mind that this state is only achievable with help). Thank you for this article!

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