New? Begin with lesson one.
By now you should either have finished your rough draft or be getting close enough to the end to start thinking about the next phase. Although it is a crucial phase, it's one many beginning or overconfident writers skip: rewriting. There's a reason what you've been working on is called a rough draft. No matter how well you brainstormed and planned, things change once you get into the thick of the story. This can lead to inconsistencies, dropped plot lines, plot holes, repetitive material, info dumps, and a whole host of other issues. Rewriting is the phase where you find and correct these issues.
Where do I start?
Hold on there. If you have the chance, give yourself a couple of weeks or so between drafting and beginning rewrites. Start work on a different project or read a book. Give yourself a bit of space and a fresh perspective on your draft. It will clear your head and make finding problems easier. This is important here and before starting the editing phase. The mind has its own version of autocorrect. Without time between passes, you'll see what you meant to write and not what you actually wrote.
Once you've cleared your head, read back through your draft. Highlight areas that jump out at you as sounding awkward, obvious mistakes, large chunks of background information, continuity errors, basically anything that doesn't sit right with you. If you find yourself questioning what you meant in a particular section or a character's motivation, mark that too.
Something's not making sense. What do I do?
When you start getting the sense something no longer follows any sort of logic, and you aren't writing a bad trip or absurd comedy, you may be looking at a plot hole or timeline problem. Make a note of where you notice this problem and keep reading. Chances are you'll find the answer later in your draft or think of a solution while you continue reading.
On your first read through, notes are key. You can use a highlighter to mark entire passages for another look while using a pen in a contrasting color to your draft to make notes. Don't worry if it starts to look like you have as much if not more ink in this second color on your draft than the draft itself. Until you've mastered the craft of writing and find a method that works for you, such a thing is perfectly normal, especially if you've continued to study as you drafted your story.
In fact, Right of Succession sat abandoned for six years before I started the final rewrites on it, and I favor a red pen for editing. My husband joked it looked like I'd opened a vein over the old draft because there was so much red on each page detailing problems and likely fixes.
We'll take a closer look at common first draft issues in the coming weeks: plot holes, timeline issues, inconsistent characterization, purple prose, awkward phrasing, and inconsistent world building.
Continue on to dealing with plot holes and disordered timing.
A. B. England is a small business owner, home-schooling mom, novelist, all around geek, and avid crafter. She loves fantasy, mythology, and all flavors of science fiction.
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