The First Time You Read Your First Draft

Image by geralt on Pixabay

You’ve dusted off your first draft of your novel after abandoning it for weeks or even months, and it’s time for the first read. Maybe you are printing it and your heart is pounding as the printer spits out each page that you wrote. Maybe you are opening its saved document and you can’t start reading until you take a deep breath, a sip of your coffee, and give yourself a pep talk convincing yourself that you can do this.

Reading your book for the first time is…an interesting experience. At least for me, while I enjoyed reading my creation, my baby, my darling–I was left with a feeling of oh shit.

You’ll likely have that oh shit moment at some point. It’s okay, you’ll get through it.

My oh shit moment washed over me as I read the last word of the first draft I just spent the prior 11 months slaving over and it was then that I understood that I needed to rewrite the entire story.

There was a lot of thought that went into the decision of the rewrite. Therefore, I want to share with you some tips on what to look for in the first read-through now that your first draft is complete.

Oh, and congratulations! You did the first hard thing of the series of hard things ahead. This won’t be easy, but know that you can do all of the hard things.

Listen to the full discussion below:

What should you think about?

You may feel intimidated by all the steps that follow completing your first draft. To help you through it, I have a list of concepts to keep in mind while you read it fir the first time. Ask yourself the following questions::

  1. Does my story make sense? Think solely about the plot–nothing has to sound pretty yet!
  2. Check for inconsistencies. I had a character wearing just a shirt and pants at the beginning, and somehow she was using her sweatshirt for something somewhere in the middle. Details like this matter!
  3. What characters do not serve the plot? If you were to remove a character, would the story still be the same? What impact does each player make? If the story wouldn’t change if a character didn’t exist, they may be unnecessary.
  4. How did your characters grow or change throughout the story? Focus on character development.
  5. Are there enough sub plots? Sometimes weak stories need subplots to make the story more interesting. 
  6. What point of view is best for your story? Is it best written in first person, third person, etc? Close third, distant third?
  7. What tense is it best written?

Remember, this very first read-through should only revolve around the general concepts of the story, so don’t worry about editing every sentence yet. I suggest printing your draft (if you typed it) and simply taking notes on each page. 

What do you get out of it?

I had a feeling the rewrite was inevitable, but a part of me hoped it wasn’t going to be necessary. Nonetheless, I had way too many inconsistencies and plot lines that I started at the beginning and didn’t see them through to the end. It was too much to fix and not enough I was going to keep. So, rewrite it was.

Despite the frustration you may feel as you read the draft of your novel, think of it as a

Image by geralt on Pixabay

learning opportunity. You will likely learn more about:

  • Your story
  • Your characters
  • Your purpose behind why you wanted to tell this specific story

Take a deep breath. Be proud of your accomplishments–you wrote a BOOK! Not many people can say that, and it is a huge accomplishment. Don’t give up and keep writing!


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