How long ago did you finish your first draft, a month, six months, a year? It’s taken me almost a year and a half since writing the first draft of my book Never Too Late to conjure up the courage to edit it. I’ve always been fine editing short stories, even other people’s novels but I couldn’t face my own. But now the time certainly has come. This year I’m making good progress on moving my manuscript on. But how? I realised I’d been complicating things by trying to fix everything at once. I’ve now broken down the task into small steps and am ticking them off one by one. If you’re struggling with where to start your edits, you can follow this structure too.
On each index card, write down what happens at the beginning middle and end of each of your chapters. This will allow you to view your whole manuscript at a glance, like this:
Now it’s time to look at which of your chapters move the story along. If a chapter doesn’t do this, then that card can probably be removed. Keep doing this for all of your cards but don’t be alarmed if you seem to have cut your pile in half, like this:
You’ll replace the gaps with new scenes that do make a difference to the plot.
At this stage I’d recommend labelling all the cards that are essential to your story, the Big Moments with BM01, BM02 etc. Providing you know your beginning an end all you need to do then is add the scenes that will get you from A to B, connect the dots that lead up to each of your big moments.
If like me you wrote your first draft without any planning what-so-ever (a ‘pantser’), then this is where I’d recommend going back and finishing your research. It will be much easier to add scenes to your manuscript when you know the finer details.
This is as far as I’ve got with my first edit, I will let you know the next steps as soon as I’ve figured them out so do check back for further updates.
For now I think we all have enough to be getting on with!