The first draft is total trash, EDIT it.

I’ll let you in on a secret.

The first draft of any written work is TRASH. Totally destined for the waste basket. Any author is as good as his/her editor or copywriter.

Writers are good at churning out ideas and stitching words together, it’s the editors who polish up the rough edges. So learning to edit your own writings is an essential skill in itself. But editing your own work can be a task as laborious as drawing blood from a vampire.

Ask Nicholas Sparks. He revised the draft for his first novel, The Notebook, fifteen (15) times before he was sure it was polish enough for publication.

Stephen King’s first book Carrie was plucked out of the waste basket by his wife; who was of the opinion that it was good enough of a story for Stephen to continue writing. And the rest is history.

Edit your work before sending it to the publishers. And here are some thoughts to help you get along the road to being your own editor.

1. Be Merciless.
DO NOT be afraid to cut stuff out. If it doesn’t make sense, cut it out. If the sentence leads nowhere, cut it out. If the paragraph doesn’t contribute, cut it out. CUT, CUT, CUT. Stephen King aims to cut out 10% of his first draft, every time he writes his tomes.

Big words that don’t make sense? CUT.

Crazy sub-plot that distract rather then contribute? CUT.

Be merciless, because if you are not, don’t expect your publisher or readers to offer you grace.

2. Spell Check/Grammer Check
The best way to do this is NOT to boot up Microsoft and let the spell checker do it’s rounds. Nop. Instead, find a language teacher and get him/her to read it through.

Teachers have an eye for mistakes and trust me, they will find out what’s wrong with your story. I’ve had my share of problems in my writing, especially my tenses. My tenses are horrifically messy, makes you wonder if I ever paid attention during English classes in school.

Swallow the humble pill and take note of what your language teacher friend tells you and make the appropriate changes.

3. Rewrite
When I wrote my first book, I had to rewrite the first few chapters. I swap the third chapter to the first and the first became the third and I had to write new sentences to accomodate these changes.

In my second book, I had to rewrite ten new chapters, after I finished the draft. Why? The story was BORING. I myself found it boring. So, I rewrote huge new chapters and in-between chapters (single page chapters) to color the story.

But be careful when rewriting. You do not want to weigh the story down too much until the original spirit of the story is buried under tonnes of un-necessary words.

4. Bury and read.
You’ve made the changes and done your rewrites. What next? Bury your draft. Keep it hidden for two weeks or more.

Forget about your draft.

Go write another book, grow a beard, take a vacation, take up a new hobby, workout and get buff or go to the movies and run through the 101 movies you must see before you die.

Forget you ever written the draft.

Then, unearth the draft and read through it. Repeat steps 1-3. And if you have to bury it again, bury it and repeat steps 1-3.

And when you are confident enough…

5. Perfect Reader(s)
Pass the draft to a few readers. Let them read and give you their honest opinion of it.

Would they buy it if it goes to print? What was the idea they discovered after reading your draft? How did they feel after reading your book?

Choose you readers well, get those that read a lot and who are able to give you a critical honest opinion about your work. Let them give you the low down on your writting.

And if needed be..go through steps 1-5 again.

There you have it folks. The editing phase of your book crucial if you want to stand out as a writer who writes well. Writers do not just convey ideas but they generate ideas.

Be a good writer but be a better editor. Happy writing.

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2 Responses to The first draft is total trash, EDIT it.

  1. Tina Kisil says:

    Hi Maclean Patrick,
    I came across your blog the other day. Fell into it actually, like Alice did into the rabbit hole, and today I came back for more insights. Great posts you have here! and I’ve added you to my favourites. I’ll look for ‘The Bicycle’ the next time I’m at the bookstore. All the best.
    Tina

  2. Kartini says:

    Hai Tina , just finished reading your book , a dusun myself I can relate to your story , I admire your frankness and such detailed memory !……reading your book motivated me to dust off my drafts…..the next is to find motivation to finish the book….

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