How To Edit Your First Draft (By A Writer Who Hasn’t Edited Her First Draft…)

Finishing a first draft is a huge accomplishment. It is also a massive, daunting task, waiting to be tackled. ‘Waiting‘ being the operative word…


As some of my readers will know, I recently finished the first draft of my children’s book. It has taken me yonks (the preferred term for an amount of time so long that you can’t possibly say it out-loud) and now it’s time to edit it. Here are my fool-proof steps…

Reward yourself (somewhat extravagantly/undeservingly)
You’ve finished the first draft! You’ve been waiting for that feeling of satisfaction and relief to set in but it hasn’t seemed to happen yet. In fact, it doesn’t feel like you’ve finished anything at all, it feels more like you’ve just started.
Well, there’s only one logical explanation for that! It’s not that you have tonnes of work left to do. It’s not that it could take twice as long to edit than it took to write. It’s not that your terrified to read it, in case it’s all utter crap. It must be that your brain is still in overdrive and you need to relax. That’s defintiely it. Massage/shopping/day trip/cinema time!!

Spend a long time mulling things over (and call it meditating)
You should spend many hours contemplating how you actually managed to write a book. How did you get this idea? When did you start writing it? How did you get to this point in your ‘writing career’? Write in your journal about it, blog about it, file all your old notes, make a mood board. The possibilities are endless! After all, this information is going to be priceless when your books are selling by the millions. These gems of knowledge will also help you write your next book (even if you technically haven’t finished this one).

Print stuff, print everything
Oh, so much printing! What a tremendous task this is, all those formatting, layout and ink issues. Some would say that printing is even harder than editing! (No one knows who said this though…) At the end of it all, you get the physical proof of your book in your hands. Now, hold up that wad of paper like baby Simba and bask in your writing glory. What ever you do, don’t think ahead.

Replace ‘editing time’ with ‘buying stationary time’
Let’s be honest, it would be a crying shame (and probably a crime) to start editing your book without copious amounts of coloured-pencils, tipex, highlighters and red pens. In fact, there is evidence that the Brontë sisters had 465 gel pens in their house, 20% of which were ‘smellies’. #Throwback #Fact

Updating your credentials absolutely everywhere
Your CV, Linked In, Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, WordPress… Even Bebo, for Christ’s sake, it doesn’t matter if you haven’t logged on for years, everyone on Bebo needs to know about your big accomplishment. Obviously, you can’t actually write ‘author’ on anything yet but you can change the wording of everything ever so slightly, so that people subliminally know that you are one.

Start reading
It’s weird how when you were writing your book, you had no time at all for reading, despite knowing it was essential to your writing. Now you’ve finished, and you’re starting to worry that your neglect of reading will show, what better time to read/catch up/panic?

Trawl the web for editing tips
Internet to the rescue! You used to get distracted my cute animal videos, but all that’s in the past (mostly). Now, it’s time to take research seriously. Make folders, bookmarks, favourites, tabs… The Google Chrome manual has nothing on you! You’ll have half the Internet saved on your laptop and so much information in your brain that you can’t possibly fail. And, this time you will actually read the bookmarks that you save. Honestly.

Write the synopsis and other seemingly useless outlines
Some people say you shouldn’t write the synopsis, logline or blurb until you’ve actually finished your book. They say that things are bound to change with every edit; entire characters and storylines, sometimes. But what do they know? They’re only industry professionals. You’re fresh new talent and you’re paving a new way of editing for the generation!

Make a (lenient) schedule
You’ve made schedules in the past and they’ve worked a treat. They’ve been colour-coded, annotated, laminated – the works! There is the small issue that you’ve never actually followed the schedule, but everyone knows that’s not what schedules are for, right? You just need to psychologically think you are following a schedule and things will just magically fall into place. And, let’s be honest, a colourful schedule will also brighten up the room – every writer need feng shui!

Look up inspiring writing quotes
Here’s a few to get you started:
“Writers often torture themselves trying to get the words right. Sometimes you must lower your expectations and just finish it.” – Don Roff
“Best advice on writing I’ve ever received. Finish.” – Peter Mayle
“Just get on with it.” – My Mum

Become a hermit
This really is definitive proof that you’re a writer. If your not depressed, isolated and speaking in metaphors, then clearly you aren’t the real deal. So, go and buy yourself a black turtle-neck sweater, some plain-glass reading glasses and lock yourself in your room.

And, voila! Everyone thinks you’re a writer (including yourself) and you haven’t had to edit a word! Who said this editing malarkey was hard!?

5 thoughts on “How To Edit Your First Draft (By A Writer Who Hasn’t Edited Her First Draft…)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s