Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Revision Tip

Since I finished my first draft of my novel not too long ago, I thought I'd give a quick tip about revision during the draft process. Namely, don't. If you polish your first draft while you're writing, it's just keeping you from getting all of your initial words on the page. One of the best tips I've ever heard about the first draft process (and I have this taped to my bookshelf next to my writing desk) is: All first drafts stink. Just keep writing.

What this means is that you're not going to get a polished, publishable piece on the first go-through. You'll need to revise. Give yourself permission to write bad in the first draft process. Why? Because you'll be able to fix it up, make it wonderful, in the revision process. Let yourself get to the 2nd draft by finishing the first.

How many times have you heard of writers having unfinished novels filed away somewhere. Why are they unfinished? Because they didn't give themselves permission to simply write the story. Their inner critic told them it was stinky, that this idea would never fly, so the writer just gave up on the project. I know because I've done it. If we ignore the inner critic and realize we don't have to put our best prose out in the first draft, we'll finish a lot more of our work.

First drafts should be about experimenting with the story. Even if you're a heavy outliner, you still need to play around with the words to make everything authentic in your story. While you get these words down on the page, don't go back and fix things you've already written. Finish what you started, and fix it later.

What happens if you come up with a stroke of brilliance that will help the beginning of your story? Make a note to yourself to fix it in the 2nd draft. If you know the change will be made, write the rest of the story as if you already wrote it. That'll save some of your revision time.

Finish your first draft, and fix it in the second draft. In this early part of your novel, the most important thing is to get that initial draft done. If you don't, there's going to be nothing to revise later. What good is a polished first chapter with nothing following it? I hope this tip helps. Until next time, keep reading and/or writing.