Monday, October 17, 2011

Where Did I Put Those Oxygen Tanks Again?

So, the first draft is finished. What now?

*cue the theme from Jaws*

Just when you thought it was safe to go back to your's time for...revision.

It's a word that strikes fear into the hearts of writers everywhere. It can make even the most confident, veteran author break out into a cold sweat. But revise we must, because as every writer has learned the truth somewhere along the way: you can't write solid gold the first time.

So what sorts of things do I look for on my first pass of edits? Here's a short breakdown:

1.) Characterization- Have you ever read a book where a character who NEVER curses drops a random bomb in the middle of the story? *laughs* If not, you've never read a first draft of one of my stories! However, that's one good thing about first round editing: you can intercept those moments where a character does or says something that deviates from his or her usual behavior at a time when a deviation isn't necessary or driven by the story.

2.) Mood Consistency- If you're reading a sexy scene, the last words you want to read are how, "Her skin slid under his fingertips like a giant squid slides through water." Okay, so maybe that's a slight exaggeration, but mood consistency is important nonetheless. I double check when I'm reading each scene that if the scene is action-packed, that my words are action packed. If it's a steamy love scene, I check that my analogies or character's internal monologues, etc. don't detract from or change that.

3.) Word Choices- If Susie walked down the hall, how did she do it? Did she trudge? Skip? Stumble? Amble? In any given situation, there are words that can be used, then there are better words that should be used. I try to check through my manuscripts to make strong word choices that will convey feelings in a given scene to a reader.

4.) Pacing- This is the last on this list, but certainly not the least. In fact, it's probably the biggest thing I'm looking for when going through a first pass. Is everything that is happening in my story moving the plot forward? Is every scene where it needs to be, both to make sense and move the plot forward. If it's not, no matter how much I love the scene or think Susie is adorable when I have her say xyz, I cut it. It might be painful. I might even cry a bit. But if it's not helping my story, there's no good reason I should be so in love with it in the first place.

There you have it! Those are just a few things I look for during my first pass of edits. What do you look for in your first draft?


  1. Don't have a lot of in-depth comments on this one, just because it's over my head.

    I will say that I really liked the squid analogy, though :)

  2. I just reached this point with my first WIP-- it's good to know I'm not alone! The biggest concern I'm facing is story gaps and writing consistency, since I took a few (obscenely long) breaks in writing it.