If you are about to read the first draft of your manuscript for the first time, this is the post for you! Reading your manuscript for the first time can be exciting and stressful all at once, but I have some tips for you that may help you along (and feel at peace with the possibility of a complete rewrite).
Don’t feel like reading? I created a voice recording for this blog post just for you! Listen here:
I saw it coming. I could feel it. But as I worked through my first draft and learned more about my characters and the plot, I developed a wildly better story. I reflected on my first read-through and found a lot of inconsistencies that didn’t make sense, and even characters that didn’t serve the plot (RIP Sue and Xelro).
My goal of the first draft was to simply tell the story to myself, and that was a success! Now it’s time to tell the story to my readers, and in my case, that is going to require a complete rewrite. But that’s okay! It is for the sake of producing the best book possible.
Are you writing a book? Here are some activities I did during and after the first read-through that may help you decide what to do with your manuscript next:
- The first time you read your manuscript, do not edit it–only take notes. It will be very difficult to know what to edit if you haven’t read the story as a whole. After stepping away from your manuscript for some time like I described in my last post, you should allow yourself to read through your manuscript to learn about the story all over again. The first round of editing should be more focused on the content of the manuscript anyway, so when you are done, you are confident that the story makes sense. The line editing will come at a much later time. For now, simply take notes.
- Pinpoint inconsistencies that broke the flow of the story. Your main character may have had a best friend at the beginning of the story but then they never returned in the middle or end–are they really important? You may have written one character with the ability to read minds at the beginning, but mind-reading didn’t end up fitting the plot by the end–should they have a different superpower instead? After I identified inconsistencies and questions I had for myself, I worked my way through each question to better develop the story.
- Write the story again in simple terms to capture the general story. Once I answered most of my questions from my first read-through, I wrote an outline. For me, I rewrote the story in the form of an outline to better understand the bigger picture. As I wrote the outline, I discovered elements of the story that could be improved such as characters that weren’t needed and character development.
- Begin the first official round of edits/rewrites. You may not need to rewrite the entire manuscript, but at this point, you will have a better idea of areas needing improvement, characters that need to go, or even characters that need to be added. Your goal for the first round of editing, again, should just be to make sure the story itself makes sense.
There are many ways to tackle the editing of your manuscript, but this is what has worked for me so far. It is hard, I have moments of doubt, and sometimes I just need to walk away for a few hours before returning to it. If you feel this way, too, it is completely normal. In fact, I think it’s healthy to take little breaks from working on this–it’s when you return to it where you prove to yourself that this is something important to you and worth working hard for it.
You can do this. It’s not meant to be easy. This whole book writing thing is possible if this is truly something you want. Want it. Hunger for it. Write it!