Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Revisions: Tackling that Baby Monster of a First Draft

It's January, and it's time to tackle those baby monster NaNo novels, if you haven't already.  They're hairy, moody, random, but hopefully have some teeth.  It can feel a little overwhelming. Here are my tips to get started on draft 2!

1. Reread the first draft. It might be better than you think!
2. Highlight the lines you really like--and try to keep them in the next draft.
3. Make a list of things you like and things you don't like.   You may well discover that you have to get rid of some of the things you like later because they just don't fit, but keeping the list can help you stay positive & remind yourself of the things that drove you to start the project.
4. With the things you didn't enjoy, brainstorm about whether they can be improved upon or whether they should be eliminated or rewritten completely.
5. Write a one-sentence description of your story, which should include the character's goal, motivation, and conflict.
6. Write a practice pitch letter, which includes key elements such as an inciting incident, an internal goal, an external goal, and how they conflict or complement each other. Writing the pitch will help you focus and pare down.

Then make a list of goals for draft 2, which probably also won't be perfect. They might be something like the following:

1. Have a sensical plot with roughly appropriate pacing
2. Eliminate useless plotlines and characters
3. Expand the worldbuilding but eliminate elements not relevant to the story.
4. Make sure all plotlines relate to the theme and are not random or overly episodic
5. Conflict should drive every scene
6. The ending should satisfactorily come to a conclusion about the character's initial goals, whether or not they were achieved.

You may or may not decide to make a new outline.  I don't really like outlines, but the way I jump into the second draft is by thinking of a really kick-butt beginning that sets up the rest of the story.  Next, whether you are revising or rewriting, just take it one page at a time.  Whenever you feel overwhelmed, go back to your list of good things and your highlighted favorite lines, and remember this is worth cleaning up!

Have you started your second draft yet? Good luck!

2 comments:

  1. This is good advice! I'm struggling through an edit. Rereading my old work was so painfully I just wanted to burn the sucker and start over. I know I'll never get better if I go that route so I'm sticking with it!

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    1. Glad it was useful--it was actually advice I had to give myself so I could keep going!

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