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First draft completed – check!

It’s time to edit my book.

Editing is tough. When you’re initially writing your manuscript, people will tell you, “Just write. Don’t worry if you write garbage. Just get words down on paper. That’s what’s important right now. You can go back and fix it later.” So you throw words on the paper like they told you. If you can’t think of anything to write, you write anything. Anything at all.

When your first draft is done (yippee!), you go back over your manuscript and wonder what the heck you might have been on when you were writing it. That part of the story where you couldn’t figure out how to make your wedding scene poignant, so you had a bunch of pirates and ninjas jump through the window and attack your wedding party? That has to go, and now you have to make your wedding scene poignant. You don’t gain anything by writing a ten-line paragraph containing nothing but the word “gurgleshnortz”. You’ve only delayed the inevitable.

The benefit you receive from this process is clarity of purpose. Your first draft tells you what’s happening and where you’re going with your plot and character development. Once you know that, through a quickly hashed first draft, you can fill in the blanks with useful, well-written prose and cut out all those flowery words that don’t contribute to the story. You can ignore and remove the parts you don’t need and spend your precious time perfecting paragraphs that count.

I’m looking forward to concentrating on my edits and building a solid story as I go. I’m not looking forward to fixing that paragraph full of gurgleshnortz. No idea what I’m going to do with that one.

31. May, 2014

8 Comments

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  1. leah
    02. Jun, 2014 at 2:09 pm #

    I heard a nice analogy recently: the first draft is like shoveling sand into a sandbox so later you can make a sandcastle.

    Which is nicer than my own analogy of: the first draft is like vomiting on the page so you can clean it all up later.

    ;o)

    However you want to look at it, congratulations, Brian! I wish you all the best!

    • Brian Crawford
      02. Jun, 2014 at 2:19 pm #

      Thank you Leah! I think I prefer your analogy. Though in my case, it’s like I’m trying to make sandcastles out of the vomit…

  2. Gabriel Fiallegas
    02. Jun, 2014 at 2:33 pm #

    I’m honestly not what you would call a nice writer, both when it comes to the content and when it comes to the process of writing itself: I’m messy, I go for flowery words more often than I’m willing to admit and, on top of that, I can’t bring myself to work as much as I would want to because I always find an excuse to procrastinate (my favourite one is “why bother writing now? what can I write in only 1-2 hours?). That, not to mention my pitiful use of English–thank goodness I mostly write in Spanish, but translating what I write is not easy, either way.
    Still, I’ve always thought that one of my biggest flaws is my tendency to find myself trapped in plotholes. Huge plotholes. I tend to think nonstop of starting stories and planning their beginning and ending, but I hardly ever stop to actually think of how to connect those two points, so I end up making up a big part of the crisis as I write. Of course, some points of the story are clear for me, but sometimes I reach a point that I can’t properly work with. Most times, when I, let’s say, finish a chapter, I have clear what I want to write next. My problem is that I hardly ever note it down, so the circle begins all over again, because it easily takes me months to retake that certain story. But I’m honestly very glad to know I’m not alone here, and that even experts struggle the same way I do sometimes. And, on top of that, I’m glad it can be fixed, because I’d be so doomed if I couldn’t fix my flaws: now I write the first chapters I wrote and they seem awful in my eyes, but I guess everything isn’t lost yet.
    I would want to thank you for taking the time to write this, I mean it. I needed some hope right now when it comes to my writing skills, and this post cheered me up a lot. Also, and as I said, excuse my poor English–I guess it would be better to have other experts giving you their opinion instead of me, but I hope you can make do with me by now, ha ha. Anyway, I hope you can soon find a good substitute for “gurgleshnortz,” even if I can’t possibly think of a better word. I’m looking forward to hearing more about that project of yours.
    And this might be my 10 years old self talking, but please keep the pirates.

    • Brian Crawford
      02. Jun, 2014 at 4:46 pm #

      Thanks Gabriel!

      I know what you mean about the plot holes. That is one reason I made sure to finish the first draft of my current novel before going back and making any major changes; I wanted to make sure I had my plot worked out before I started doing any rewriting. I didn’t want to rewrite stuff that I would then have to rewrite again because my plot wasn’t fully thought through. I’ve been using Scrivener as a tool to help me figure out what I want to do and to keep rough notes as I’m working my way through my narrative. It has been a pretty good tool for plotting my way through the story and keeping track of where it’s headed.

      By the way, I think that your grasp of the English language is very good! I am sure that your fiction is similarly good. And of course, the best way to improve is to read a lot, and to write a lot. Over time you will continue to improve. Meanwhile, I’ll think about your advice about leaving the pirates in the story. Pirates certainly make things interesting.

      I hope you have been doing well.

      • Gabriel Fiallegas
        02. Jun, 2014 at 5:31 pm #

        I see, and it makes plenty sense, indeed. I have thought many times of rechecking and rewriting those chapters, but I think I’ll wait until I’m done. Or until I have at least written a bit more and I know where the story is headed, as I think it’ll take me a really long time to finish. I have never heard of that tool before, but I’ll google it. Who knows, it might come in handy once I get a good grasp of it, assuming it ever happens. Thanks for the suggestion!

        And thank you! It’s been long since I started practising everyday, but I still feel like I have a long way to go; I keep struggling a lot, you see. I don’t know if my fiction is good or not, but, for starters, I try to enjoy writing it, as I don’t owe anyone anything nor I’m trying to make a profit out of it. I’ll follow your advice and try to read more, though. I should also try to kill two birds in one stone and start reading actual books in English. I love translations, but nothing beats the original.

        Thank you for your reply. I wish you the best of lucks!

        • Brian Crawford
          04. Jun, 2014 at 9:13 am #

          I think that makes sense. Either way is good. I will often write something not for the sake of keeping it, but because I think that writing in different ways and trying new things helps to improve your writing in the long run. It’s good to take a long-term approach to your skills building.

          The fact that you are practicing every day is, in my view, a great sign. And the fact that you enjoy writing it is an even better sign! I am sure that you will continue to put out some great writing now and in the future.

          Reading books in English definitely helps – reading books in French was one of the first things I did before I did my grad program over there. It really helped to get the language back in my head.

          Best of luck!

  3. Damien Ledoux
    19. Jan, 2015 at 4:59 pm #

    This is so true! You’ve accurately capture the editing process. (Hmm, should I edit out that adverb? ha!)

    • Brian Crawford
      19. Jan, 2015 at 7:01 pm #

      Thanks Damien! No need to edit out that adverb. There’ll be tons of time to edit out adverbs later. In fact, while you’re at it, add more adverbs to increase the word count!

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