“It’s like riding a bicycle…” the phrase usually implies that once something is learned, it’s learned and you’ll remember how to do it forever. But it’s not entirely true. Your skills get rusty if you stop riding for a while. Your muscles weaken, meaning you remember riding as being easier than it is when you do it again. The same thing happens with writing and editing…
Over the last three months I’ve sent a book off to a publisher, written a first draft for a novel, and taken a month off to deal with family/holidays/covid/etc. This month I’ve started at the very beginning of editing the first draft novel I wrote in November. Editing a first draft differs greatly from the last pass before sending it off edit (if it isn’t you might want to rethink your process). It takes a lot of work.
First draft editing is somewhere my “1 ½ pass” method really helps. First draft editing isn’t just cutting extraneous words. It definitely isn’t just a spelling and punctuation check. First draft editing means dealing with those themes that should have started earlier but didn’t, the stuff that’s out of place, and the things that need more attention and development; in addition to the things that need to be cut, polished, and spelling/punctuation checked. First draft writing can be a mess.
But you have to start somewhere (it’s not a cliché it’s a reality…) and you’re better off getting the big pieces in place before you spend too much time polishing the trim and dotting the ‘T’s and crossing the ‘I’s (I know what I said…)
First draft editing is necessary, even though it’s hard. It’s a place to be ruthless with your work but forgiving with yourself. Yes, you made errors, but you’re fixing them. There’s a lot of work in a first draft and you won’t see everything as you’re writing it (that’s what editing is for). Making mistakes is part of the process. While you’re editing “suffer ye not an error to live”, learn from the mistakes you’ve made, fix them and then move forward.
Editing that first draft is something you have to do if you want a readable product (or if you want to avoid looking like a complete a$$ on screen or in print). Sometimes we need a break, but remember to come back to your edit. Sometimes we need help, this blog and other resources are here to help. But ultimately, we have to do the work. Every time we go back to the beginning and start work on a first draft, it feels hard. But it gets easier with work and practice.
That said dear reader, I should get back to my editing (and you should probably get to yours…). See you next post.