Editing Your First Draft

I took a break from the whole self publishing circus this weekend because I figured I needed a rest from worrying about author platforms and marketing myself online.  Sometimes it feels like I have chosen such a difficult route to getting my work out there but now it is Monday morning and I need to get back in the saddle and just well, you know, get on with it!  That’s the thing about self publishing.  You don’t have the incentive of a big fat advance or a nagging editor.  It is just me, myself and I (to quote the great De La Soul).

Last week saw me printing out my first draft and realising that it was indeed, an example of SFD (Sloppy First Draft).  Reading through my book highlighted the need to play with the order of my chapters, bolster out some sections which were looking rather light and fluffy, and giving the whole product some well-needed polish.

I have read a lot of blogs which tell me in no uncertain words that I need to pay an editor.  However there is one problemo here – cost!  I cannot afford to invest the money that I need for a professional editor.  And the areas that I need to work on are glaringly obvious to me.  I read a lot of books.  Over the years of being a high school English teacher, I did a lot of marking.  And by ‘a lot’, I mean thousands of hours marking students’ work.  I am also far too self critical and hold myself to very high standards.  And I want my book to be a great product.  I am not interested in churning out any old ebook and just hoping that the price is right and that someone will buy it.  I want to be proud of my work.

But I am working within limits.  Financial considerations are very real to me.  So I have decided that I have to be my own editor and this calls for me to approach my own work with a very critical eye.  I think I put off editing my first draft for this reason.  I was so darned pleased with myself for just writing a piece of work that was over 60000 words.  The thought that I might read it through and  hate it was not altogether an inviting prospect.  But I have done it.  This weekend I went through every page.  All the typos have been underlined in red.  All the gaps have been given an asterisk and now I am embarking on the process of reshaping my book and padding it out in the lean areas and slicing out bits that felt very clever at the time but on rereading now seem unnecessary.

And here are my ten tips for editing your first draft, for those of you who have decided to go down the DIY editing route:

1) Leave it a week or two before you read through your first draft.  This gives you a distance from what yo have written and allows you to bask in the glory of someone who has written a ‘book’ on on their ownsomes.

2) Be ruthless with yourself.  Read the draft as a reader.  Not just any reader.  Read the book as a critical reader.  Look for the holes in your writing.  Spot the errors.  Get disgruntled with the bits that are not up to scratch.

3) Do not, I repeat, do not rely on spell check for your proof reading.  Spell check can overlook some pretty hilarious errors.  I had a giggle at some of mine. eg: “You want to meat yourself head on” sounds rather juicy but not quite the same as “You want to meet yourself head on”

4) Don’t hold back.  It can feel torturous realising that your whole first chapter needs rewriting and the I can’t be bothered voices will be singing loud.  However, if it needs the work, then it needs the work – simple as that!

5) Think about the overall shape of your writing.  Do whole sections need to be moved around?  Printing out your work on paper with each section on a separate page means that it is easy to shuffle pieces around and see whether that feels better.

6) Try to make it a pleasurable experience.  Write editor’s notes to yourself which include good points as well as bad.  Be kind to yourself.

7) When going back to your original draft, edit it in phases. eg. Monday = spelling correction day.  Tuesday= rewriting first chapter day. etc

8) Don’t lose sight of how far you have come.  The majority of the work is already done.  This is the polishing phase.  You have still written a book.  It’s just not publishable quite yet.

9) Don’t show anyone your work yet.  Keep your baby to yourself until you are happy that it is the best that you can do.

10) Make sure that you are doing other book related things at the same time as editing.  Keep building your author platform and researching your next work.  Just make sure that you schedule editing time into your diary and stick to those slots.

But, what would I know really?  I just know that I want my book to be a polished piece of writing.  I trust myself enough to be self critical when it matters. I like the control that I have over this process.  This is my book and I am proud of it but I want to make sur that it is the best that I can do.  I am sure that you feel the same.  As a self publisher on a budget, I am certainly not going to send out my work unedited.  I have professional pride in what I am producing.  That pride means that I will pay  attention to the details.

Yes it would be lovely to be able to afford an editor.  In fact, it would be lovely to have someone else to work with because writing is a lonely business, make no mistake.  But the reality is that I am writing this book to create an income stream. So professional editor – like Prada shoes,  I love you but I cannot afford you.

Are you in the process of editing your first draft?  Any tips on how to make the process less painful?  Any resources that you have stumbled across which might be helpful?  Leave a comment, I dare you!

My editing hat awaits.  Toodle-oo

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