I’ve just finished the first draft of The Cauldron Trilogy (part one) – and it sucks. But that’s okay because ALL first drafts suck. Every single one. And that’s absolutely fine.
Writing is re-writing. Take a look at the first/annotated drafts of some famous writers and you’ll see first hand how much they changed and, hopefully, why. Sherrinford Hope isn’t quite as catchy as Sherlock Holmes is it? First drafts are a necessity. The important thing is what you do once you have one. Here are a some suggestions for next steps you could take.
1) Leave it to stew
The top piece of advice is probably this – put it down and walk away. If you’re absolutely itching to get on with it then go ahead. But if you can restrain yourself, then it’s quite valuable to put your draft to one side for a few days before you start editing. You don’t have to stop writing altogether of course. Get stuck planning another work or dash off some poems, to keep the writing bug happy. Then get back on the WiP pony with a fresh hat and shiny new spurs.
2) Note first, edit second
I wrote my the first draft of the Cauldron Trilogy in scenes as opposed to chapters, using a (very long) book plan as a guide. As I did so, any thoughts on changes I’d want to make would be added to the relevant scenes as notes. My plan once the scenes are all in order is to do this throughout the whole book. The notes will be about plot/character/scene changes to give my editor (also me obviously) an idea on what needs work first.
3) Don’t delete it, move it!
When you do start to edit for real, you’ll doubtless find sections to remove. Rather than killing them off for good, move them out of your WiP instead. Set up a document to in which to stash the larger chunks you chop and any “perfect sentences” that don’t fit where they currently are. This is useful for a few reasons. First because you may realise you need it back, second because you could re-use it somewhere else in your story, and third because it could even find a home in another story – you just don’t know it yet.
Don’t be afraid to keep stuff
We can all agree first drafts are rubbish, but that doesn’t mean you need to remove or re-write every little bit. Some of what you wrote in the heady throes of your first try will actually be good. So don’t get too change-happy.
There’s a few suggestions to help you manage your first draft along the re-writing road. Any tips of your own? Please share in the comments.