- Photo by Rae Grimm (bloodylery)
Okay, you’ve finished your first draft and you’ve done your happy dance (that’s obligatory, BTW). Congratulations!
You take the advised week or two away from your draft and then come back to it and do a quick read through. And it sinks in. You have a pile of *%&^# on your hands and you’re overwhelmed on how and where to start. (Wait, you didn’t feel that way?) Here’s what I did because that’s exactly how I felt. I’d written my first draft in the 30 days of NaNoWriMo
and it wasn’t pretty, folks.
First off, take a deep breath. You Are Not Alone. I think it was Stephen King that said his first drafts were stinking piles of you-know-what. Take that to heart. No one will see your first draft. It’s OKAY. That’s where revision comes in.
So, now you’re staring at the big stack of paper (you did print it out, right?) and panic starts to seize you. It’s too much! I can’t fix this whole thing!
Relax. Don’t look at it that way. See it as fixing it piece by piece.
1. Hopefully when you did that first read-through you wrote done your gaps in logic, things to fix, plot holes and the like.
2. Now go through and for each scene (not each chapter, each scene) and write it on an index card. I like colored ones where each color represents the POV character. On that card write a sentence or two about what happens and the main conflict (here’s where you find out if you didn’t have any conflict!).
3. Lay these cards out on the floor, or a huge table if you have one. Try to find a place where this can stay in place for a while, because this is your big picture and boy does it help.
4. Now take your revision notes and write out new cards for scenes that need to be added and put them in where you think they should go. Mark them so you know they still need to be written.
5. Take a look at your cards and see if the order really works. Do you have too many slow parts next to each other? Too many high action scenes next to each other?
6. I also now print out a blank calendar for the time period of my novel and write in the action that takes place each day so then I can see if I’ve got things happening logically. This will really help you see if you have time lines skewed. Or that you have things happening on s Sunday that wouldn’t work, etc.
7. Do anything else that makes sense to help you see the big picture. Make maps of places and settings that you use, that kind of thing. The point is to take a step back and see the big holes so that you can fix them at this stage.
8. Also take a look at some of those cards. Especially the ones that had no conflict. Can you add some tension or conflict? No? Can it be tossed?
9. Now take those new cards and write those scenes. Rearrange on the computer the scenes you shuffled around. Now print it out again and go through marking that sucker up with all the changes you marked on your notes. Don’t worry about making this the final draft. It’s just this draft.
10. Type all these changes in. Now, here’s where I deviate a little from what I’ve read about this stage. I found I was still overwhelmed and so what I did was buy a 3-ring binder (it eventually grew to 4 total) and some numbered tabs (plain white for me) and then I printed out my draft in segments: each scene separate. Then I placed each scene inside its own numbered tab. Not each chapter, each scene.