When I started writing my WIP I set myself a target – to have the first draft completed by the 24th December 2010. I planned my time, getting up an hour and a half earlier each morning, to ensure I met my goal. And I did it. By the 23rd December I’d got my first draft finished. The feeling was tremendous. I celebrated with a glass of bubbly, some pizza and a large piece of chocolate – bliss!
But now, over two months later, the wonderful feeling of rapturous joy has well and truly worn off.
After taking a couple of weeks off from my novel, to let it ‘settle’, I began the second draft. This was mid-January 2011. I thought (naively) that the hard part was over, that now I’d got a full draft I was nearly finished.
Oh how wrong I was.
It’s taken me until to realise I’ve not been editing at all. I have been tweaking and procrastinating, staying rooted inside my ‘happy place’ comfort zone of the first draft, not daring to change much. [Note to self - that IS NOT editing!]
Anyway, last night, I was reading some excerpts of my WIP to my partner and a friend. And, as I read, a mortifying wake up call of reality hit me – my WIP is not as ‘ready’ as I thought it was.
In that moment I discovered that there’s something about reading your work out loud that exposes the prose in a way that reading it in your head doesn’t. There’s nowhere to hide for a start! Reading aloud shows up any clunky sentences or clumsy metaphors, it highlights unnatural dialogue, and points out any awkward language. And although my ‘audience’ were very kind in their feedback, I know that I can do better.
But, in order to do better I’m going to have to push myself out of my first draft comfort zone, and into a more fluid and dynamic second draft. I need to make sure every single word in my novel has ‘earned its place’ and eliminate flow-stopping prose that jolts the reader out of the story.
So, now I’ve recognised the work I need to do, my next five steps are:
- Set myself a goal. For some a self imposed deadline might be a nightmare but, for me, I find I actually work better if I’ve got a target.
- Acknowledge that this will take a bit of time, but that my book will be much better as a result.
- Stop beating myself up about the fact that my first draft isn’t perfect (I wrote it in three months, there’s bound to be some dodgy prose in there!)
- Quit moaning about how I ‘hate editing’, and get on with it. Sometimes you really do have to ‘Just Do It’!
- Report daily progress: use the WIP page to chart my editing progress.
That sounds like a plan I can follow! So, with a smile on my face, and a red editing pen in my hand, I’m ready to catapult out of my comfort zone and towards my goal of second draft bliss …