So you finished your first draft.
Everyone revises differently, but if you’re like me, you’ve got a whole list of things you know you need to fix, but you have that advice ringing in your head: let the draft sit for a couple of weeks before you tackle a revision.
You can do that. You probably deserve a break. Chance are, you’ve been slaving over your keyboard for at least a couple of months — probably longer — to get this draft finished. Yeah. Take a nap. Eat a cookie. (Maybe not in that order, unless you’ve mastered snacking in your sleep, in which case, let’s talk.) But if you have a list of things you know you want to fix immediately, and you’re still excited about the project, go ahead and fix them now.
The Revision Police won’t come and arrest you.
Look, there’s all kinds of advice out there, some of it good, some of it bad, and a lot of it aimed at people who only sort of want to be writers. But you’re here. I assume you’re serious about this writer thing. So I’m going to tell you a secret: there are no Revision Police.
There are no Writing Police. No Knitting Police. No Cookie-Eating Police. (The Grammar Police are totally real, though. *flashes badge*)
There’s only what works for you.
I can’t tell you what everyone does upon finishing their first draft, but here’s what I do, and what seems to be working well so far.
- I cry. (What? It helps.)
- Tinker with the end, because chances are I’m not ready to let go of it just yet.
- Look over the list of things I know I need to fix. (This only works if you’ve made a list while you were writing.)
- Add a few more things to the list.
- Take care of the biggest changes first: moving/adding/deleting scenes and so on.
- Take care of the smaller but still very important things: seeding information, making notes of characters’ emotional arcs for that part of the story, clarify things that lack clarity.
- Check the timeline/calendar for days/weeks passing and seasonal changes. Make sure things that take three weeks to happen don’t happen in two or ten.
- Take a nap. Eat a cookie.
Again, this is only how I work. Your process may be completely different, and that’s just fine. If you all worked just like I do, I’d assume I’ve been cloned, and frankly I find that thought unsettling.
I like to take care of what I know about while I’m still excited about the book, and while I’m still on that finishing-the-draft-high. (I know some people who just want to collapse, though. Like I said, we are all different.) After that, when I’ve had a few days to distance myself from my beloved story, I start from the beginning and tidy things up/make notes as I go along.
And when I get to one of those places I added information or already fixed a scene? Oh my commas! It’s already fixed. How about that? I love being rewarded for ignoring advice.