Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The First Read-Through of Your Masterpiece

 So, you've finished the first draft of your masterpiece. Congratulations! Now what do you do?

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*

I love to read comments. Please leave yours :)


  1. That's pretty much how I edit, although I always have a red pen in my hand - even if it's just to make a ? or highlight something that doesn't read quite right.

    I'm editing right now. I love it!

  2. Great tip! I am not very good at reading through my work without being critical, but it's probably a good idea to do it!

  3. It's really helping me a lot by reading through my first draft. Sometimes after the fun of writing the thing, I get bored with having to read my work over, but it is so crucial to the entire process.

  4. Thanks for sharing these tips. While I am far from having anything like a masterpiece, this is the first time I have stepped out of the box and thought thats it, I am doing this. Several nights I actually couldn't sleep because of so much information I have been reading to get my facts from. It is almost like with everything quiet at night, my mind is drawn to it. I think my fingers are finally uncramping from the writing of notes. I have a way to go yet, again thanks for the tips you share. B4 I forget I tagged you. : )

  5. I actually find this part of the process very difficult. The more I distance myself from my work the more I convince myself that is embarrassingly horrible. Thus I fear reading it.