Do you get down to editing right away? Correct grammar or maybe rewrite sentences to make them sound even more beautiful?
According to author, James Scott Bell, the first thing you should do after completing a first draft is take a nice long break from your project (a week or two). You want to remove yourself from your work so when you do go back to it you will have a more objective eye.
So ... a week or two goes by. Now do you whip out your red marker (purple in my case) and edit the life out of that manuscript? No! You read the thing from cover-to-cover even if it is cringe-worthy to do so.
Essentially, what you want to do is get an overview of your world, read the book the way your reader would do so, and not change anything. Bell advises that you may want to take notes on a separate piece of paper but that's about it at this stage.
Perhap you have your own special method of editing. There is no right or wrong way to edit, but now that I am reading the first draft of my novel without changing things, I find I have a much better sense of my world (i.e. where the pace is off, where the tone doesn't sound right, and dialogue that is hokey). I even printed the manuscript up like a book complete with spiral binding.
Now every chance I get, I sneak away from the kids and read a chapter or two. It's certainly not a masterpiece ... yet ...but I am more confident in the editing journey now because I have a better sense of the entire project as a whole. Give it a try!
Exercise: Pick up something you've written (i.e. short story, chapter, article). Read it from start to finish while resisting the urge of the inner judge to correct anything. After you've read it, reflect on your work as a reader might. What do you think your reader would think right now about your piece?
*Check back every Wednesday for a new post on editing and an exercise*
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