You finished your first draft. Now what?
Well, first things first, sit back and congratulate yourself. You did it! How many people can say they finished a novel? Even if you don’t plan to do anything with it (although I’d argue you should), you’ve made a great accomplishment.
But here’s the bad news. Writing the book is the easy part. What comes next is just as important as finishing your first draft, can be much more difficult:
So as challenging as revising your novel may be, I came up with three quick steps to follow to complete your revision process. I hope you like reading, because you’re about to do a lot of it. But it’s not too bad because you’ll have a specific purpose with each step.
And here there they are…
Step 1: Quick read-through
First thing, read your novel again. Don’t get too bogged down with details; you’re goal here is to re-familiarize yourself with your work. If you find any choppy sentences or icky dialog, by all means correct them, but remember that this isn’t really your focus. Think of this step more like a reader than a writer. Make notes if the reader inside you finds parts that seem like they should be cut or expanded. If a scene bores you, cut it.
Step 2: Look at the Plot
The next read-through should focus on the main storyline or plot. This includes looking at every individual scene, and making sure that it fits in and that its sole purpose is to advance your overall story, or further define or introduce a character. If you threw in a scene for no real reason other than to add words to your manuscript, cut it.
Likewise, if a scene exists only to give some background of a character or setting, stop and ask yourself if the detail it gives is actually important to the overall big picture. Scenes that are not absolutely necessary must be cut. No exceptions. If you think an unnecessary scene is too good to cut, then make note of it, and find a way to make it relevant enough to keep.
If you used an outline to write the first draft, consult it and double-check for plot holes and consistency. If you don’t have an outline, I’d say write one now to help yourself keep better track of plot structure.
Step 3: Characters
Next, read your novel again, with a focus on the characters. Look at each character individually. Make sure that his dialog and actions are consistent throughout. Your reader should never catch himself saying “That guy wouldn’t say that,” or “that gal wouldn’t do that.” Also, make sure that your characters aren’t too similar. The last thing you want is an agent turning down your novel because she can’t tell who’s who.
And finally make sure that every character has a purpose. Make a list of every character in the book, regardless of how small, then go down the list and ask yourself why that character is there. If he doesn’t contribute to your overall storyline, then ask yourself how important is really is to use that character. Can he be “fired” and have his duties “reassigned” to another character?
So now that I’ve just told you to reread your novel three times, go do it!. And then come back tomorrow, as we’ll take a look at something that may be even more difficult than working on a revision: writing a synopsis.
What revision tips would you like to add? Feel free to share in the comments at the end.