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Monday, February 01, 2010

Why You Should Revise After You Finish the First Draft

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

Too many writers are tempted to write a chapter, reread it, and revise it before moving onto the next chapter. My recommendation is--DO NOT do this if you can help it.

I'm not a full-time writer--YET! (But, if the Lord is willing, one day I will be!) Anyway, I cannot sit down and write several chapters at one sitting. I must squeeze in paragraphs and scenes wherever and whenever possible. For this reason, I often have to reread some the previous chapter to immerse myself back into the story before I can move forward with the next scene or finish the scene I've started. The problem with this method is that it slows down the writing and it thoroughly tempts one to revise and edit while writing the first draft.

You're already rereading it. You see a few mistakes. You think of gaps and things that are missing. You realize ways that can be better phrased to make it sound much better. Why not go ahead and do it now while you're thinking about it? While you're in this section already reading it? Do any of these thoughts sound familiar?

The dangers of giving into this temptation are:
1. You will always find better ways to phrase things, mistakes, typos, etc. If you keep doing this and give into this temptation too often, you will never get the first draft written. I've known writers who take years to write the first draft of a novel. If you talk to them long enough, it's because they keep revising what they've already written rather than leaving it as is for a while and moving on with the rest of the story. Don't fall into this trap if you can help it.

2. Finding so many mistakes is daunting and it wears down a person's self-confidence. Then one starts questioning themselves, their ability, their whole purpose for writing. Am I really meant to be an author? What if I never get this published? Am I just wasting my time? Am I missing out on life with my family for nothing? Has God called me to do this or is it just a fancy idea I've come up with? If you go ahead and finish the first draft, you have that security or safety net that at least the book is finished when you start revising and seeing so many mistakes. If you haven't finished the novel yet, fear is a HUGE temptation.

3. You don't yet know what you WILL know by the time you finish your first draft. It doesn't matter if this is your first book or your tenth. Writing is a growing and learning process. It is always evolving within us. With each book, you will learn more and more as you write each chapter. You will develope a style, and you will polish those skills, and you will learn from others whether it be from reading novels, critique partners, or workshops. If you will only wait until you finish the first draft, you won't have various stages of writing experience to overcome at the revision level, because we all know that consistency is a must.

These are just a few reasons why you should wait to revise your novel AFTER you finish the first draft. Other authors can probably give you more reasons.

How to Avoid the Temptation to Revise
1. Don't read the whole chapter of what you have last written. Read only a few pages of it or the last scene. You only need to read enough to immerse yourself back into the story, the mindset of your characters, and where you need to go with the next scene.

2. If you see minor edits, go ahead and make those minor edits, but don't rewrite unless something is extrememly bad or you have a brilliant statement that just cannot be ignored.

3. If you see gaps and major revisions that are needed. Make a notation in parenthesis and highlight it in a different color. Believe me, you won't miss that difference in color when you come back to revise later. If it is a printed copy, just make a notation in the margin.

4. Reward yourself for each new scene or chapter you write as a rough draft. It doesn't have to be food! It can be a fun movie, an outing with the family/kids, a shopping trip, something that you enjoy. We all need encouragement, so set small milestones so you can feel like you are progressing toward your long-term goal of finishing that entire first draft of your novel.


Great Advice! You are speaking directly to me, too!!!

I found myself doing that too, but had to break myself of the habit. Now that I'm in the editing process, I find that I have to go back to fix plot and such as I go. But it really doesn't slow me down at this point.
Great tips...thanks