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5 Strategies When Editing Your First Draft



The first thing to understand and implement is the idea that you should wait a few weeks or even a month before you attempt to edit your first draft. It is important to view your story with fresh 👀! Imagine how many hours, days, months, maybe even years you have spent on it. You'll be blind to the errors, understanding the method to your madness when most readers just won't.

Once you have waited a few weeks-months, you must become the reader and read your first draft with no editing! Yes. No editing! This will allow you to spot some, or even all, of the errors I will state below a lot more easily!


1.

You shouldn't rush a best-selling novel. Therefore, take extra care when you're reading your draft, making a note of any plot holes. You should do this regardless of how big or small you think this hole is. Think of it as a leaky pipe- you have a small one and so do not see it as an issue. The hole becomes bigger and bigger until it's a full-blown flood.

Do not drown your novel.

What are plot holes?


Plot holes can be a gap or an inconsistency in your plot line that prohibits altogether or decreases the overall flow of your story.

There are several types of plot holes. These are:

  1. Contradictions. A typical example of this is when a rule is established and then broken. For example, if you establish at the beginning of your story that no one can breathe underwater for 2 hours, and then a character in your book breathes underwater for 2 hours just for the story, this creates an immense hole.

  2. Illogical developments. Again, this is when the general rule of your book is broken such as, if your book has no magic and then a character can perform a spell to aid the plots development and help them out when they're in trouble. A plot hole that disrupts the logic of a story is an enormous turn off for readers and publishers!

  3. Factual errors. These are very common and can be very tedious to spot because it includes dates or wrong information. For example, if you state that your story began in the late 2000 and King Henry was reigning, this makes a reader shut your book faster than you can say King Henry.

  4. Unfinished storylines. Leaving loose ends is not excellent writing practice. This often (or should I say, always!) leaves the reader feeling like the story was messy with no real consequence.

  5. Impossible occurrences. These occurrences are mainly outside the fantasy/ fiction genre. This is where world-building comes in useful. However, if you are not writing a fantasy/fiction where you have not built the world and so the rules that inhibit it do not follow actual life logic, then you have set your reader up for disappointment. This will force the reader to think about actual life logic which distracts them from your story, thus removing them. This is a lose-lose situation.

The biggest issue for me, when I have found or am finding plot holes, is knowing how to fix them! There's a reason I intentionally left them or not. That’s because I do not have an answer. However, there are ways you can avoid making such drastic plot holes. Ideas:


1) Plan your story with an outline. An in-depth outline plan and blog post will come next week! Keep your 👀 peeled! 2) Take a break. This allows you to be objective with your story and allow you to read it with fresh eyes. 3) Write concise summaries and lists. I usually keep a separate word document with the summaries of each chapter. Within this, I also include a list of keywords or areas I feel need improvement. Also, within my main manuscript, I highlight certain paragraphs or words where I feel there needs to be a revision. 4) Keep a Checklist of your subplots with a few details. This gives you a bird-eye view of your story. Make sure it ties all subplots up, avoiding any loose ends.


Even after doing all of this, you still may not know how to fix all of your holes, that’s okay! Just make sure you make a note for reference and ensure they’re fixed before you publish the book.


2.

This one seems obvious. However, it’s a simple mistake to make and to miss.

During your first draft (And all drafts!), ensure you check all names (character names, street names, city names) and check your vocabulary (Unfamiliar words, big and complicated words).


Tip: When I write any name, street, place or unfamiliar words (magic spells, foreign words) I keep a list of each along with the page number and what chapter it was on. This is helpful if you edit using a pen and paper. This is a simple mistake to make, but when missed, it can damage your manuscript


3.

This goes without saying: Never write a sentence that you couldn’t say in one breath.

If your story is full of sentences that are longer than 3 lines, you will lose your readers' attention. However, if done correctly, longer sentences can be elegant if they well constructed. But, keep in mind what Perry said, ‘Too much of anything can make you sick.’ Tip: An effortless way to estimate this is: Sentences longer than 3 lines or 20 words= too long.


4.

It is important to review a character's story arc. Tip: Before you start your story, create a character profile. If you haven’t done this, do so now. Check out my Character profile, here.

Once this is achieved, ask yourself these questions:

1) Have the character’s important aspects made it into the manuscript such as personality, opinions and overall subplot? 2) If so, are these aspects clear and tidy? Are there any loose ends or things that can enhance the development of your story? 3) Are there any scenes where they apparently to be acting out of character? 4) Could you throw them into a situation where they develop further or develop the story?


Remember, a story must develop and lead to a certain goal. If your story does not do this, then ensure it does before publication.


5.

It is important to edit your draft objectively. This means changing, editing or completely deleting things if they do not have a purpose or aid in developing the story, and moving the plot along.

This may be the main character, an entire chapter or a scene, or parts or all of a subplot. Everything in your novel should have a purpose. It should move the plot or aid in a character’s development. Most of the time, this fixes a lot of problems relating to plot holes and enhancing the overall flow of your story. It can also tidy up loose ends and enable you to write a more interesting character or plot line.


Do not allow your personal connection to prohibit your manuscripts potential.

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