The First Draft.
It’s a writer’s greatest success, but more often it’s our biggest dilemma. It’s that nagging feeling something is not quite right. How did that great dialogue and mind-blowing action we had in our heads turn into this – THIS CRAP!?
Here are 10 tricks to help fix a first draft.
1. Take a break.
First things first, take a break. Have a walk around the neighborhood. Maybe grab a cup at your favorite coffee shop (Starbucks for me, please!). Use this break to take your mind off your writing. You’ve taken a big step towards finishing your book.
You deserve it!
When you come back, your writing might not read as terrible as you first thought.
2. Read it aloud. Especially your dialogue.
Are your words looking a bit blurry?
Not sure how to spot your typos anymore?
Reading aloud is the best cure!
When speaking, you are forced to hear every syllable and how they sound together. This experience is how your readers will read your words for the first time. Be sure to go back and re-write whatever reads clunky, confusing, or well just down-right awful. Reading is particularly useful for your dialogue.
If you can’t say it, your characters probably can’t either.
3. Act it out.
Acting out your writing can be just as beneficial as reading it, but for slightly different reasons.
Have a scene where your characters are moving a lot?
Act it out while logging all the movements you made. It can help you develop your descriptions but also make sure they’re accurate. Would your right or left hand move up at that turn? What direction would you turn to leave that doorway? Act it out, and you’ll know for sure.
Use removable tape to mark important areas in your scene. Or use a full-length mirror to see yourself in action.
4. Search and Destroy Adverbs.
One of the most fundamental rules of writing fiction to use as few adverbs as possible. Why do you ask? Often adverbs can be replaced with stronger more precise nouns. Remember that the fewer words you use, the more readable your sentences will be.
Take some time to search your draft for adverbs and replace them with a precise word that says the same thing.
For example, if you described something as being “very big,” use gigantic or enormous instead. If you describe someone “said softly,” say they whispered instead. Both say the same thing but in one precise word instead of two.
Of course, this doesn’t work for every sentence but at least try to narrow your draft down to one or two instances.
5. Use your memories to visualize.
- Writing about a crappy day at work?
- Or maybe a long car ride across the state?
- Maybe you’re writing about a girl who has a crush on her classmate.
Chances are you’ve been in the same or a very similar situation as your character.
Take a moment to close your eyes and remember your thoughts, actions and feelings during this time and use this to guide your writing.
If you felt it, your character could too.
6. Remember your senses.
We don’t just experience our world with our eyes. Take a look back at your draft and see if you’re using all your other senses like:
It will not only make your writing more complete but allow your readers to experience your writing as if they were there themselves.
7. Open a reference photo.
Unless you have a photographic memory, chances are you don’t have every detail of a location or person locked in your head.
Instead, open google images and search for similar places or people that in writing. Then go back to your draft and see if any of these new reference photos can help you visualize and describe all the details.
8. Move things around.
There’s no need to stick to the order you wrote in especially if it’s not working. Sometimes a sentence fits better at the beginning of a paragraph or in another paragraph. It may even help to start the chapter at a different point in the timeline.
The choice is up to you! Just don’t be afraid to try.
You may be surprised at the result.
9. Revisit your outline.
The quickest way to spot trouble in your draft is to revisit your outline. Instead of reading hundreds of words over and over again, just skim over your outline. By doing this, you’ll be able to find gaps in your plot or parts you can remove altogether, but much much quicker!
Not writing outlines?
Now might be the best time to start.
10. Remember your goal.
When writing, you can be so focused on each word and punctuation it’s easy to lose sight of why you’re writing in the first place.
Each chapter or section should satisfy these three important questions:
- Does it move the plot forward towards the conclusion?
- What questions are you trying to answer for the reader?
- Are you addressing these questions with your character’s actions and words?
You should be thinking about these points as you read your draft. If you find yourself unable to answer them, this is a good place to start when rewriting.
It’s a difficult task to fix something when you may have no idea what’s wrong. With these ten methods, I hope you find yourself that much closer towards a final draft.