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So, you’ve finally completed that first draft of  your novel. Congratulations! It’s an accomplishment, no matter how long it took to get there. Now that you’ve finished, you may be asking, What’s next?

Is your heart thumping wildly in your chest as you force yourself to sit down, a proverbial red pen in hand, starting at word one, page one? Do you tweak with sentence structure or word choice? And how do you tackle thousands of words when you’re not sure if they all add up to a plot?

Here are five things to do before you even begin the editing process.

1) Let it sit. Let it be. Resist the urge to open that document and peruse it’s greatness, or it’s lameness and give your brain a much-needed break. This is a great time to conjure up your next story, maybe make notes and write character descriptions. Or, if you’re like me, and you have numerous books all in different states of creation, you tackle one of those.

2) While your story rests, invest into some good books on editing. And I’m not talking line-editing, but BIG picture editing. Books like A Story is a Promise by Bill Johnson, and Writing the Heart of Your Story by C.S. Lakin. Read them. Study them. Soak in them in and learn how to look at your writing from the MACRO to the MICRO.

3) Read. Read novels in your genre. Find ones similar to what you write and study the pacing, the voice, the phrasing each author uses. Did you draft your book in third person, past tense and maybe you fall in love with first person, present tense? Maybe it would be great to change things up? You can make this big picture decision before you even edit a word.

4) Read. Read novels way outside your genre. Test yourself- how much diversity can you take? You may be surprised how much inspiration you’ll discover by thinking outside the box. And who knows, it may inspire your next best-seller!

5) Now that time has passed–at least a few weeks, if not a month, print your book. Use all that hard-gained knowledge from those how-to books, note changes directly on the page. We read the printed word differently than ones that appear on the screen.  It’s amazing how many mistakes I’ve discovered when reading my novel on a printed page!

I hope these suggestions help. Got some great ideas that work for you? Care to share? We’re all in this together…

Happy editing!



10 thoughts on “5 things to do before you edit that first draft…

  1. I think my preferred approach is a little different. I haven’t yet finished my project, but I’ve also been in the process of revision almost since I finished the first chapter. It helps me work out subsequent chapters. My approach in revision is to focus on a single element that I know needs work, and go with it from page one through the end of what I have. During that process, I often rephrase things and work on other little problems I notice along the way. It’s true that sometimes this gets me all hung up on pieces I know need work and I just can’t let slide until I’m ready to tackle them. In spite of all of the advice from so many sources, I try not to work on other projects. I do write down ideas when inspiration hits, and sometimes find myself thinking about those other stories, but I’m making an effort not to work on nuts and bolts of those ideas so that I can finish what I’m working on. Of course, that’s just how I am, almost singularly focused on whatever it is I’m working on. It’s a personality trait that drives my wife batty sometimes, but that’s how I roll, so… Anyhow, thank you for sharing your insight.


    1. It sounds like you are confident in pressing forward on edits this way- and you’re fortunate that it works for you! I tried this method with my first novel and got so bogged down on word choices that I lost track of the big picture. I, however, am not a plotter. Thus, the struggle! I’ve been studying methods for pre-plotting, trying to figure out what works for this panster brain of mine! I’m guessing, the better planned, the more your method works.
      Thanks for sharing!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks Sue! I’m up to my ears, day 3, trying to edit chapter one from the NaNo monster. I have a March 6th deadline for 9 measly pages….1-9 though. The hard ones…eek. I shall try the five, slowly, with a calm mind and patience…in the morning!!!


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