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Self editing: Going beyond the first draft hurdle.

My writing methods are, to say the least, chaotic. When I start writing a new story, I take the multiple notes and short stories I’ve accumulated in relation to my writing project and merge them together in a timeline I designed with the notion it will need to be flexible. When the time comes to produce the first draft, I usually create bridges between the short stories I wrote using the notes I took during my research and reflection. At this point, I don’t fret about anomalies, unless they are huge. I write and that’s it. If I do come across a bigger problem, I will leave a note to myself in parenthesis and bold for when I come back for the first re-write. During the first draft, the most important thing is to move the story forward. Any plot hole, or contrived dialogue, or any other anomaly will be addressed in the first re-write. My rhythm during this first draft is uneven because I feel it’s important to refer to my notes regularly to make sure I don’t stray too far from my established timeline. It’s easy to get into a flow and let a scene develop more than it should, making the re-write that much more difficult, so keep your notes close by.

Funny enough, this part is the quickest to write because I don’t deal with the issues as much as I do in the editing phase. Once a first draft is on the page, I go back and begin editing. During the first phase, I try to concentrate on the notes I left to myself first, in case they affect other parts of the storyline.

Here, I must insist that you work through the doubt that can creep in. When I do my first re-write, the errors, or lack of description I find are sometimes ridiculous, beginner level mistakes. Don’t let that take you down. Focus on what was written. For example, When I was writing my first book (still unpublished, stay tuned), I wanted to describe a fantastical landscape but didn’t have the right inspiration at that moment. All I wrote was: “Doug found himself in a field covered in clotheslines that had red, blue, and orange sheets.” Not a lot to go on, but combined with my notes, that was enough for me to write five more paragraphs about a secret world hidden in plain sight.

The first re-write is the hardest because this is when you cover as many plot holes as possible. Take the time to do it right, it will save you time in the long run. After this it’s time for the second pass on the book, this is when I start to look for grammatical mistakes. I first look for my danger words; mine are; just, many, but, and a few others. I do a search for those words to eliminate all that are useless, which is often all of them. This part is simpler if you took the time to be thorough in your first re-write, but be diligent nonetheless, your writing deserves your full attention.

Finally, I get to the third read through. This time, while keeping my eyes open for typos and other mistakes I missed in the other two passes, I try to read it without stopping to hopefully get a feel for it as a reader will. If I find too many anomalies, I go back to phase two and start again. I do this once because beyond that, I believe it’s time to incorporate outside editing and get another pair of eyes on your text.

Hope this helps some of you overcome the first draft hurdle, have a great week everyone!


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