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  1. #1
    Gary Mitchell

    Finished Rough Draft. Now What?

    I haven't actually finished, but only lack four chapters. My question is this,” Now what do I do?” I have completed a chapter by chapter break down of what happens so I can see the bones of the story, and what happens where, but I look at chapters and think, Oh my gosh, this stinks. I also have points that don’t match up as I wrote one thing earlier and then decided to change a few details along the way. I like one chapter I wrote and that is about it. Do I trash and redo from scratch or edit? When do you know that it needs to be completely rewritten, and when it just needs editing. This is my first book. I have written several short stories and edited. I cut out things I didn’t like, moved others around to different parts of the story, rewrote some areas and made the rest of the story match. My best writing occurred in the rewrite, and I found I loved the revision process. I mean I actually love rewriting a story and watching it begin to sparkle better than anything else, but a book is much bigger. Is there a certain approach that is best when dealing with book revisions? Thanks for the advice. I am grateful, and I know everyone’s time is worth a lot.

  2. #2
    Josh Lemay

    Re: Finished Rough Draft. Now What?

    This is my opinion, take it with a grain of salt.

    First, I would leave it alone for awhile. I think a month is a pretty decent amount of time. Let yourself forget the story a little, basically.

    Second, read it again afterwards and figure out what you want to change. Try not to do too much at once, though. Either go through and edit with no regards for story content, or only look for story content with no regards to editing, and fix things up as you go. Micro manage it all into little sections so that it doesn't seem as massive as it actually is, but you don't have to stick to one thing constantly. If you get a little bored of editing, do some story/plot revision, then go back to editing later, etc.

    Third, after you've finished the revisions and the editing to make it nice and shiny, read through it once again to see if you like how it turned out. Fix any minor things you might have missed or want to add. I think after that, you're probably done for awhile. You can let people read it and offer suggestions, then take or disregard them depending on if you think it's a good suggestion or not. Fine tune the whole thing and make it as presentable as possible.

    I don't think there's any certain approach to it. This is just my way of doing it. If you find something that works better for you, then that is probably a good way to go about things. For me, it really helped to split it into smaller parts, though. I got overwhelmed when trying to do too much at once, and then I'd end up feeling burnt out and not want to work on any of it for awhile.

  3. #3
    Chuck Shaw

    Re: Finished Rough Draft. Now What?


    Try working each scene as an individual unit. After it is fairly close to polished, move on to the next. A rough outline, actually just in my head, tells me what I want each scene to accomplish, but a written outline might be better. I also hold the individual "voices" of the characters in my head, though you could go back through and edit each character's actions and dialog individually to ensure continuity of each character's voice, attitude and abilities.

    A good bio for each character, giving speech mannerisms, education, likes, dislikes and all the other things that develop a character as an individual is important. Again this can be written, though as you write you probably will get to "know" the characters. All writers need to hold conversations with the voices in their head. They often tell you what you are doing wrong. You can almost hear the character saying, "No way you nitwit-I'd never say that to HER!"

    If you can write a good scene that does what it is supposed to do, you have the bricks. You can build the manuscript from there. Without good bricks you can't build a solid structure. Of course you CAN build an unsolid structure, even with excellent bricks!

    Hope this helps

  4. #4
    Cindy Kay

    Re: Finished Rough Draft. Now What?


    Like others have said, let it sit a bit (a week for me), when you come back to it, read it all in a weekend with no pen in hand. Try your best to read it like a reader. Ask yourself if you get engaged in the plot and characters, if it evokes emotions. For me the crux of whether to scrap or edit is about whether the book has heart. Most everything else can be edited, heart is hard to add in.

    If the answer is yes, read again with the pen in hand. Fix the stuff that is obvious. Then get your couple of first readers in on it. Edit again. Get a wider circle of readers. Edit. Join critique group. Edit again. Let sit at least two weeks and edit once more.

    Just my decision-making and editing process.

  5. #5
    Dana Rongione

    Re: Finished Rough Draft. Now What?

    I agree with the others. Let it sit and simmer for a little while. When you go back to it, you'll be looking at it from a different perspective. When you do go through it again, make notes about what you do and don't like. From there, start working on your dislikes one at a time, dealing with each scene until it fits what you're looking for. When you've finished that, let it sit again. Then, go back and read it again. Continue this process until your book reads the way you want it to read. During your "time off," don't be thinking about the book. Focus on other projects. This will allow you to look at your book with fresh eyes.

  6. #6
    Jeanne Gassman

    Re: Finished Rough Draft. Now What?

    There are all kinds of ways to edit a first draft, but the most important thing to do first is to develop emotional distance.

    Set the work aside for a few weeks or even a couple of months. Then go back and read it straight through, taking notes as you go. What do you like? Does the story hold together? Where are the plot holes? Are there scenes that feel flat?

    During the next revision, concentrate on structure. Make sure your plot is solid, your characters well-motivated. Cut the dead scenes out and sketch in the necessary transitions. Add new characters, scenes, or subplots that you think will improve the story arc.

    On a subsequent revision, start focusing on the details. You may want to make more than one pass so that you don't get bogged down here. For each pass, though, read your work out loud.

    Use one edit pass to examine your verbs. Do you have a lot a of qualifiers? Verbs of being? Can you make the verbs more dynamic?

    Then, edit for adverbs, dialogue tags, and repetition. Look for adverbs that "tell" rather than show. Replace dialogue tags with the action or thoughts of your characters. When you do need tags, stick with "said" or "asked," if at all possible. Check for the repetition of favorite words or phrases. Look for places where you narrate an event, then explain what that event means.

    Finally, look at the rhythm of your sentences. Does the sentence length match the function, with shorter, fragmented sentences used for action and longer, more descriptive passages dedicated to introspection? Do you fall into favorite sentence patterns, such as tacking on modifiers at the end of each sentence? Is the dialogue crisp? What is the balance between narrative and dialogue? Enough? Too much? Not enough?

    And remember, read the darn thing out loud each time you revise. You will start to hear the mistakes in your head with some practice.

    Good luck. Lots of work, but if you believe in your book, it's worth it.


  7. #7
    Gary Mitchell

    Re: Finished Rough Draft. Now What?

    Thanks for the advice everyone. I have saved each response for study. I will need to spend time thinking about what each of you said.

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