14 September 2014

Milestone Reached! Editing the first draft by hand

The vast chasm-like gaps between posts is inexcusable, reader. Would it help if I said that I've now completed by first round of edits to the manuscript, per manum, by hand?! This is the furthest I've got in the process of novel writing and the most methodical. I have technically got this far with the previous novel but that ended up staying in 'revision' mode for several years and in all fairness, was quite a haphazard state of affairs.

I've made all the edits, red pen and all and the result looks somethin' somethin' like this:

Ooh, look at all dem pretty tags!
One might be wondering, 'why make the edits by hand - you'll be needing to re-do them on the computer'. True yet I canna express how much joy I had taking the red pen out and making the changes physically on the page. Also spending a little paper and ink and overseeing a two hour printing job doesn't sound like fun but that in itself is so very minor. I basically assumed I was the editor of the script and oddly, it helped me to get some distant from the original work so that I didn't think of myself as the original writer. I know, I know I can't get as much objective distance and actual editor who hasn't been invested in this but it still helped. I honestly couldn't face doing the first round of edits on the computer, staring at the words on the screen. This way I kind of felt like a teacher or something, such fun! Plus I got to carry it around with me and edit during lunch breaks and on the bus (once).

There are numerous moments when I've just scrawled 'LAZY!' in the margins. :) Or just lots of lots 'reconsider' and 'rethink.' There are so many times I made basic 'mistakes':

  • clunky sentences where the subject is confused, 
  • telling and passive voice, 
  • odd tense shifts, 
  • POV shifts, 
  • contradictory details, 
  • puzzling character motivations,
  • seemingly aimless interactions with no real stakes, 
  • info dump description thrown in when we're in the middle of actions - the list goes on. 

Was I embarrassed by them? Not really, because in truth there aren't any real 'mistakes' made in a first draft. Just stuff that needs to be sharpened, questioned and improved. The whole aim of the first draft is just to get to the story down, the stuff that's raging in your head, stuff that you haven't even really worked out what exactly it is just yet. This isn't really the stage where your exercise your best writing chops - it's your elementary stage. Only then you graduate into the role of actual crafter, (aka shit gets real).
The whole objective has been achieved though - in that it helped to understand the lay of the land fully and know 'what story do I have here?' Subsequently, it makes it that much clearer to know what needs to be done to make it better - more tension, MORE suspense, more active characters/more 'action'. Also more actual resolutions - some characters stories have an end but not much in terms of an arc per se and well I think more stuff, like secrecy or whatever, more needs to be revealed about them, exposing them, than having them just reacting to the current events. Not sure I've articulated that well but I get it in my head and notes etc. **Runs off to the flesh out the vague note 'More secrecy and past mysteries to be revealed.'**

Anyhow, I am very excited to make the changes and essentially make this story better! I ain't gonna lie, one feels rather chuffed :) Plus I have a hard copy of my work where I can probably look back at it and understand far more clearly how I've progressed. Take that MS Word 'Track changes'!


  1. Congratulations on getting your first draft under your belt - am still working on completing a full manuscript. It's a process!
    But I like this idea of printing out and attaching pretty tags ☺

    1. Hi Shaista! Thank you very much. Unlike most writers I speak to I really enjoyed writing the first draft! How far along are in your manuscript? And yes, printing it out really helped to also get it out of the weird digital space of the computer and make it feel more like a real, live story - does that make sense? The pretty tags just made it extra fun :) Good luck with your writing! I'm going to check out your blog, it looks fascinating!