Planning/writing a first draft is FUN!
Revising and editing drafts is… a different kind of fun.
You’re going to hear something different about the writing process for everyone you talk to, but the general consensus is that writing is easy and takes no time and that rewriting takes forever. I confirm this.
So, let’s talk rewriting. Why is it important? Well, according to Chuck Wendig:
The first draft is basically just you flailing around and throwing up. All subsequent drafts are you taking that throw-up and molding it into shape. Except, ew, that’s gross. Hm. Okay. Let’s pretend you’re the Greek God Hephaestus, then. You throw up a lump of hot iron, and that’s your first draft. The rewrites are when you forge that regurgitated iron into a sword that will slay your enemies. Did Hephaestus puke up metal? He probably did. Greek myths are weird.
So yeah, the next thing you do after you write a rough draft is to congratulate yourself on vomiting all this hot iron into a beautiful shapeless blob. I’m going to keep using THE CARVER as an example. When I finished my first draft, I popped a bottle of wine (not 8.99 wine from CVS, 9.99 wine from Harris Teeter) and ate all the cheese and crackers I wanted. It’s truly something you need to be proud of, because many people make the resolution (“I’m going to write a book someday!”) and only a fraction follow through with a complete rough draft.
What now? You promise not to touch it for at least 3 weeks. You’re looking to get enough time that you can approach it with some objectivity, but not so much time that you lose your spark and passion for it. Then, you send it to the printer and put it on paper. Seriously. You catch a world of errors on paper that you wouldn’t catch on the computer. Plus, it’s inspiring! After all, the ultimate goal is to see your project printed and bound (for me at least), so put it on paper and get a good feel for it.
Then, raise your mighty red pen of the law, and ATTACK. Read it out loud. Read it as a reader would, and mark up anything that doesn’t make sense to you. The key is to start broad (major plot issues, continuity, inconsistencies… for example, my villain is the stepmother of a major character, but in Draft 2 I spotted several places in which she called her “grandma”. I also have a Heather whose named changed to Iris, twice.) Mark it up. Make highlights. Smother it with post-its. Keep another notebook beside you and make a report of your findings. Again, you’re looking for the broad stuff. Punctuation and grammar come later!
When, and only when, you make it to the last page, mark it up, and jot down all your findings, then you can pull up your Word Doc again and dive in for your first round of cleaning. Sure, you can fix small-scale things as you go, but the way I see it, the idea is to funnel in with each draft. Draft #3 can hone in on authentic dialogue, for example. Does Pop acquire a southern twang sometimes? By now, you can start showing it to readers you trust. More on that next time!