Cleaning Up That First Draft

You could be writing a fully-fledged book, something smaller like a short story or something even smaller again like flash fiction, but I’m sure we all have the same thoughts about first drafts – they’re a nightmare! When descriptive details run wild and every arc imaginable is right there in front of you, things need a severe tidying up. Luckily, I may be able to help with that!

Hold Back On The Details


Give enough detail so that the readers are able to form a clear image of what you’re trying to show them, then stop! I understand, you’re on a roll with all those descriptive words and really doing your word count proud, but too much of a good thing certainly exists. Each reader will likely have a slightly different image in their heads of your visuals and that’s the way it needs to stay. Use that different view to your advantage.

Choose The Most Important Arcs


I can’t imagine a 100k-word book that isn’t littered with at least one arc for all characters of some significance. In total, that’s a lot of arcs to be keeping track of! From the get-go, make a note of every storyline you have with every character, give them code names if you have to. Review all of what you have and start a process of elimination. Sadly, plots will have to be cut for some reason at some point but they can always be recycled for a later work. Nothing is truly lost, only rescheduled.

Overall, Everything Should Be Significant


If major events are able to take place with the exclusion of storylines/scenes, rethink them because they likely have to go. If one character can easily be replaced by another and have the impact remain the same, you can bet they definitely have to go or at least rewritten. Although it may be cool to leave certain aspects in, especially if they’re dear to you, it’s counterproductive to include them if nothing is effected by their inclusion.

Now, this mightn’t 100% solve your problematic first draft issues, but it does exactly what it says on the tin – it cleans things up a bit for you. If you can strip it down by this much, I have no doubts that you’ll be able to go the distance yourself and birth your second draft.

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