Your first draft isn’t meant to be perfect. Because it’s a brain dump, I encourage writers to write fast and just get it out. Note, however, that the first draft is not the one that you turn in to your editor.
Revising and editing are separate steps in the writing process.
Once you’ve finished brain dumping, let it chill for a couple of weeks. This way, once you come back, it’s like you have a new pair of eyes. You’re not as attached to it. You’re more likely to pick up on errors such as your character taking her shoes off at the front door then climbing in bed and kicking her shoes off again. You’ll find passages that can be strengthened, characters who can be better developed, and ideas that need further expounding.
And though you may find some grammatical errors, don’t worry about those too much. Revising is moreso about ensuring that your writing flows. Print it out, grab a pen, and read it aloud. When critics read your book, what do you want them to say about it? What do you want readers to walk away with? Revise accordingly.
When possible, find two to three people to be your beta readers. These persons should be trusted with what’s currently confidential and to serve specific purposes. At least one should be your ideal reader. Another should be a trained proofreader–someone who knows what to look for.
And always give your beta readers a deadline and instructions. Whatever you feel unsure about is usually what you’ll want to ask about:
- “While I’d love for you to point out grammatical errors, I’m more interested in you checking for areas that don’t flow well or need clarifying.”
- “What would you rate this book and why?”
- “This book is written for young, widowed women. How can this book better help or speak to them?”
Needless to say, you need beta readers you can trust to be honest with you. Don’t agree with something they say? Don’t change it. Now if more than one are saying the same thing, then strongly consider it, but remember that the choice is ultimately yours. Bear in mind too that revising isn’t always a one-time cycle. After your draft, you’ll revise. After your beta readers review it, you may have to revise again. Once you’ve done the best you could with it, it’s time to edit.
Editing is never done by you!
Nor a friend or family member unless they happen to be a professional editor. WiseInkBlog lists 15 questions you should always ask your editor before hiring them. Make sure that your editor is experienced and passionate with the genre and subject matter that you’re dealing with. Pick someone you have good chemistry with. And trust your gut. If it doesn’t feel right in the beginning, move on. And always, always, always request an editing sample.
Your editor will make the grammatical corrections. Check for sentence structure, clarity, flow, development, marketability, and all of that good stuff in between. This is usually the part where you’ll become SICK AND TIRED of your manuscript. While the editor has it, I suggest you do something totally different. When you get it back, if you’re not up to it, let it sit for awhile before addressing the corrections.
[Struggling with the rewrite? Here’s how I can help.]
Remember that writing is a process. Take your time with it and make sure that it’s all that it deserves to be. Having your book overlooked or underrated due to what could have been avoided with due diligence is a tragedy and a self-disservice. Stick to the process: prewriting – drafting – revising – editing – publishing.