Check out this awesome concept art for a friends novel. FYI, she drew it!
So you’ve finished the first draft of your first book. Awesome! That’s more than a lot of people have been able to do. There are millions of unfinished manuscripts rotting in dresser drawers and resting on hard drives. Now that your done it’s time for that next step. Which in my opinion you have three options. Take a break then read it yourself, get someone to read it, or start your second draft. Eventually you’ll do all three, but the order may change.
We’ll unpack these one at a time.
Take A Break Then Read It
At this point you want to separate yourself from your own work. Take some time off to either outline another book (I recommend a different book or series), or go out and do something. Take part in a hobby and enjoy life. Don’t take too long though. Maybe a month or so.
This is a method we use as artists to clear our mental palette. In my day job as an animator I often have to step away from my work. I go around to other desks and see what others are up to. And when I come back I’ll see everything with a fresh pair of eyes. Flaws that I didn’t catch before jump out and slap me. Plus the stuff that is good really stands out. Often times you’ll wonder if you really wrote it.
During this time you should be taking notes on what you’d like to change. This is when you mark scenes for deletion or decide what needs punched up. With your break I know you’ll easily see the flaws.
Big point here. Don’t get discouraged. Your first draft was just getting words on the page so you have something to work with. Think of it like modeling with clay — if you’ve never modeled with clay, stop reading and go do it then come back so this analogy makes sense to you (also it’s fun) — when you start your just worried with getting your major shapes down. The ovals, cubes, and cylinders. That’s your first draft. Taking a break and reading it is like stepping back from the clay and evaluating it. Are the proportions correct? Can you shave away any parts to shore it up?
After that you either get someone to read it our start the second draft. Which I recommend doing one before the other. So keep a look out for those posts coming in the next few days.
Here is another concept drawing of a character from my book: Winfield, who owns and runs Winfield’s Eclectic Books!
Before I start my posts on editing a first draft, I have a present. A friend linked a great Tumblr page written by an editor about receiving submissions from authors. She uses gifs coupled with captions air her frustrations with her job. Really witty and funny stuff. Plus, it gives us authors an insight on what to do, and not to do.
What a crazy ride it has been. Starting my first book my goals were simple. Outline a book and shoot for 50 thousand words. For a first timer it felt more than reasonable. By the end of the first draft I had something like 82k words. I was stoked. At that word count I had plenty of editing room. After a bit of a break to distance myself from the work I jumped into the second draft.
I stumbled quickly. See, there is plenty of material on the internet about how to write a first draft, but so very little on doing your second. Makes you wonder how many unedited manuscripts are floating around out there. Probably more than we could count in a weekend.
With that in mind I plan on trying to remedy that. Over the next several posts I’m going to be breaking open my experiences on starting that second draft. And maybe I’m in the minority. Maybe everyone is really swish with second drafts and just struggle with that initial output. But, just in case I’ll talk about it anyway.
On a slightly different note, in celebration of finishing my second I’d like to show everyone a little bit of concept art I drew up. Being inspired by my coworker Jenn Lyons I decided to draw a character from my book. May I present Brenda Courdry, AKA Brenda the Beast, AKA Brenda the Seventh Grade Giant. A head taller than most eighth graders, she’s the First Home position on her Lacrosse team, and a powerhouse on the field. She has a penchant for giving people nicknames. Why learn their real name when they aren’t worth her time to begin with?
Hope you enjoy it! I look forward to presenting more characters at a later date. Come back for more!
Whoa, it’s been two months since my last post. Sorry about that. I’ve basically been face deep in my novel. Which is nearing the end of the second draft. After which point it’s off to my beta readers. For now, I want to talk about something I’ve always had a hard time wrapping my head around.
Shuffling scenes. Also known as moving scenes.
Over the years I’ve researched how other authors go about writing. What methods do they use? How do they structure their scenes? On several I read that they like to write scenes as they think of them, completely out of context. Then just move them around later. Scene 32 may be better as scene 21 because it supports scene 27. I have one response to that.
That blows my mind. How can you write a scene without knowing or having written the previous scenes? They build on one another. Inform one another. What happens in scene 12 should impact the rest of the book. So if you write scene 16 first, be ready to make some serious revisions. And how can you move a later scene up when it should rely on everything that came before? Time for more rewrites!
Obviously it works for some people. They have no problems. It’s just that when I see that, all I see are all the major revisions ahead of the author. *shudder*
Save yourself some time, plan your scenes first. Or be prepared with a hatchet, fire, and glue for your editing!