Woo hoo! You did it! You’ve written your first draft. So what’s next?
The first thing to do is feel super smug and a wee bit proud (or should that be the other way round?) Either way, not everyone gets that far, but YOU HAVE.
Once the euphoria and the effects of the celebratory chocolate/champagne/insert-treat-of-choice binge have worn off, it’s time to plot the next step.
Unless you are some kind of genius magic writing-robot, your first draft will probably be overwritten and underdeveloped. The next step is to identify where it needs work. Here’s my recommendation.
- Wait at least a week before you look at it again. Preferably a few weeks. You are so close to it you won’t be able to see it properly without a break.
- Format your manuscript with generous margins and at least 1.5 spacing. Either print it out or save it in a format that can be annotated on a tablet (I use Goodnotes). If you don’t have a printer or a tablet, invest the $15 or so to print it at your local stationers, it’ll be worth it.
- Set aside a good chunk of time – at least one and a half hours – to start reading it. Chose a quiet comfortable place where you won’t be interrupted (bed, the library, the park). Turn off your phone and/or any notifications on your tablet. You need to have maximum focus to get as close to the first-read experience as possible.
- When you find bits that need work, circle them, make a note in the margin, then move on. If you get a brainwave, make a note and move on. Working like this will give you an overview of your book. It’s too easy to get lost in the detail when you are working on your computer; working on paper/tablet helps you see the big picture.
- Keep with this focussed reading pattern until you’re finished. Resist temptation to dive into the manuscript and fiddle. It’s not going to help. Trust your memory and your notes; they are going to help you decide what to do next once you’ve finished your appraisal.
- When you are finished reading, note down the jobs that need doing. For example, did you discover a subplot petered out half way through? Do you need to review your turning points? Are the stakes not high enough for your protagonist? Decide which of these you are going to tackle first.
- Congratulations, you are about to launch into your second draft. And you have a plan!
Good luck intrepid writer.