Okay, I’m sure you’ve heard the expression that first drafts are always…well, you know. Not all that great? Well, for the longest time, I didn’t believe that at all. I was always the one who’d write my story and the minute I’d typed the last sentence, I viewed it as done. Completely done. Ready to be read by family, friends and the literary agents I queried. It wasn’t until recently that I really understood how important editing is.
Give yourself a break.
I know that the minute you’re done with your manuscript you probably want to read it right away and fix everything in a matter of hours, but hold off. This is definitely the hardest thing for me to do, because I’m ridiculously impatient (impatience and authoring…who would’ve thought those were even compatible?) but wait at least a week, preferably two or three to distance yourself from your book. You’ll come back ready to read your novel like a reader, not an author, and you’ll be better at finding the mistakes.
You can’t really do this on your own…
Okay, what I mean is that you’re the author and most of the time you’re way too close to your novel to see many of the obvious flaws. The most important thing I’ve learned about editing is that you need someone else (or preferably, multiple people) to read your book and give you honest feedback. About your writing, about the plot, characters, holes, problems – anything and everything. I cannot tell you how ridiculously wonderful it is to have an editor who sees the things that I don’t.
Editing can be overwhelming, so do it in waves.
This is why they are called drafts. Plural. Draft one is getting the idea out on paper, however horrible or random it is. Draft two is probably for obvious or easy-to-fix mistakes and grammatical errors. Depending on what needs fixing in your story, you can go through a draft focusing just on character development or flaws, or go through solely for the purpose of fixing a major plot point, etc.
Do not accept your first draft as a complete and finished product.
Okay, I’m going to say this again. Your first draft isn’t going to be the best your novel can be. Some first drafts can be amazing, I’ll admit (unfortunately, not mine), but your novel will always be better if you do multiple drafts and edits and if you’re serious about publishing, this is super important. I used to settle for “kinda good” immediately after I finished a novel and called it done. But now that I’ve started drafting and editing, they’re better than I ever thought possible.
So edit! Because if you’re anything like me, you need to be told a billion times before you even try. 😛
So good luck with drafting and editing, and have fun!