Thursday, October 4, 2012

Fiction-Writing Secrets to Letting Go of Your First Draft

Some writers love the freedom of working on a first draft; other writers find the process of getting words down on a blank page to be the most agonizing part of the fiction writing process. Whichever camp you fall into, you will eventually complete your initial draft. 

The next step is revision. Revision often means letting go of or changing much of the material in the first draft. This can be hard for writers who fall in love with the words they write, but story revisions are not optional — they are a crucial part of creating a publishable manuscript.

Murder Your Darlings

English author Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch advised, “Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it — whole-heartedly — and delete it before sending your manuscripts to press. Murder your darlings.”

While this advice isn’t always applicable, if you find yourself inordinately fond of a certain paragraph or phrase, take a close look at it to see if it really is helpful in telling your story. If not, out it goes. Some writers who can’t bear to hit the delete key copy and paste their favorite bits of prose into another document in case the words are needed at a later date. They rarely are.

Tie Up Loose Ends

Take some time to read over your story carefully to catch “orphan” devices, characters, or plotlines. These are elements that you introduced in the early part of your story and never mentioned again. For instance, if you dwell on a description of rat traps in the first chapter, those traps should play a significant role in the plot later on. Similarly, don’t spend three pages introducing the reader to a character that you never mention again.
If you find any orphans in your story, delete them or add them to your “darlings” file.

Re-Evaluate Your Point of View

Finally, make sure you are telling the story from the most logical point of view. If your main character is “off stage” for most of the action, consider rewriting the piece from the point of view of a character who plays a more active role in events.

Now that you know what to watch out for, you can turn that ho-hum first draft into a shining finished product.

Byline: Michelle is an aspiring writer with a passion for blogging. She enjoys writing about a vast variety of topics and loves that blogging gives her the opportunity to publically voice her thoughts and share advice with an unlimited audience.