Once you’ve had a suitable break from your novel, at some point you’ll need to reread the entire first draft. Sound obvious? Maybe not so obvious is how you should read it.
The Five D’s of Reading a First Draft:
1. Do read as objectively as possible. Curl up with your manuscript or your computer as best you can, and pretend you are curling up with a published book some stranger wrote. You are not emotionally and mentally and physically invested in this story. No, those are not your blood and sweat and tears on the pages [repeat those words to yourself over and over and over . . .]
2. Don’t make any changes. Not yet.
3. Do look for problems with your story. Not little problems (“Oh, I misspelled my protag’s name”), but rather the big problems (“Wow, I left a big chunk out of this scene.”). When you find a big problem, write it down somewhere: directly on your manuscript, on another piece of paper, within the text, or wherever. I use Word’s Track Changes to add comments in the margins. Just list the problems somewhere so you don’t forget them. Trying to fix problems now will switch your focus from big picture issues to little details. Mandy Hubbard describes this process better than I am.
4. Don’t panic. Cringing is a normal reaction to a first draft. That’s why we’re tackling second drafts—to make the story less cringe-worthy.
5. Do allow yourself to enjoy reading the story. Laugh and smile at the hidden gems throughout. Your story has great potential. Feel the joy.
Once you finish reading the story, you’ll already have a to-do list of problems to fix. No worries yet—we’ll cross that canyon when we get there.
Some of you are already on Christmas break, or will be soon. What better time to reread your first draft? Take a day or two to read through it and make your list.
Can you tell how tired I am? My usual rambling is gone! I guess now I know the cure for rambling blogs—write them at 2:00 AM. I’ll try to be more coherent next week. And please let me know the million things I forgot to mention in this post!