It’s time. You’ve gone back to the first draft of your WIP. How on earth are you meant to approach the mountainous task before you – the first read-through?
1. Read out loud.
This might seem like an odd thing to put first, but you simply have to read your work aloud. By reading aloud you can figure out where your sentences run away from you, or where the words just don’t quite sit right. And, if you can bear it, it works well to tape yourself reading it, so then you can pick up errors / areas for changing both when you read it initially and for a second time.
2. Don’t get caught up in the tiny details.
This is your first edit. You need to be far more concerned with plot, character, and whether all of those scenes of your characters hanging out in the pub were really necessary…
You need to figure out which characters are unnecessary, where you might be missing characters, where the plot derails into an entertainingly awful side-scene that DEFINITELY won’t be making the final edit, and so on. Whole scenes will disappear and whole new ones planned – so there’s no point in rewriting the same sentence five times if that sentence is going to disappear when you axe the whole of Chapter Ten.
3. Take off your rose-tinted spectacles.
Yes, I mean you. Don’t idealise your flaws, and be brutal. There might be a scene you love and adore, but if it’s not got a place in your story then it needs to go. This is why distance is essential before you start the first read-through!
4. Make notes. A lot of them.
Especially if you’re reading straight off a computer screen, now is not the time to be making comments on every line. Get yourself a cheap and cheerful notebook and prepare yourself to note down ever single flaw you can find as you read. Then, when you decide what has and hasn’t made the cut, Past You has made handy notes to help you edit that scene – and if the scene hasn’t made it, your Inner Editor has indulged in a much-needed moment of critique. It’s a win-win.
5. Read as a reader, not a writer.
This may be the first incarnation of your novel, and it will undergo massive changes before it gets anywhere in the direction of Finished Book. Pay attention to what you are enjoying as a reader. What plot points made you sit up and take notice? Which characters do you love, and which are forgettable? Any scenes that feel like you’ve totally nailed it? Places where you’d put it down?
These are key things to notice – they help get to the heart of your story, and once you know your story’s heart, you can make it shine.
Are you editing a novel at the moment? Do you have any other tips for how to edit your first draft? Leave a comment!
Struggling with your editing? I’m a creative writing mentor with over five years’ experience of helping writers hone their novels. Get in touch to arrange a free consultation!