After the First Draft

You’ve finished the first draft of your manuscript. One hundred thousand words carefully constructed over the last twelve months. Now, what happens?

It’s probably a good idea to set it aside for a while. There’s no rule I know of for how long. When you come back to it, read it through. Odds are, you’ll stil love it, but you’ll notice places where it slows down, gets off track, or isn’t interesting. Ask yourself, why?

I usually overdo descriptions of food and location in the first draft. It’s fun when I’m writing and discovering, but it often doesn’t add to the plot or characterization. Is your piece heavy on narrative, endless dialogue with nothing going on? Just make notes. You’ll come back to it. What about filter words like: to hear, to think, to touch, to wonder, and a dozen more? Words that pull the reader out of the character’s actions–that tell instead of showing.

As you get into the first edit and revision, you’ll discover much about writing you didn’t know before. How do you show character emotions? Discover not what you would think or do, but how your character would respond.. Know your characters not as words on a page but as living, thinking entities–speaking not for you but for themselves.

Now, dig into the structure and form of each sentence–varying length and words, finding the lyrics and making sure each statement is clear. Do the paragraphs have form–beginning, middle, and end–even if the paragraph is only a sentence? Do your scenes have style, a clear point of view, time frame, location, and relevance to plot and character arcs.

Are your chapters complete within themselves? Do they make sense in that they start with certain conditions and they end with well defined new conditions that move the plot along. Is the story a story? Does it have a theme in that it has a definite purpose that fulfills your objective–humor, moral, adventure, intrigue–whatever you intended? Is it a page turner?

Only after you’ve answered all these requirements, plus a decent grammar check, are you ready to hand it over to beta readers.