The First Thing To Do After Finishing A First Draft

Look, I know this project is your baby. You’ve slaved away for months (or even years), raising it to be the best storyline it can be, and you did it. You finished. It is officially an 80,000+ word adolescent. So what I’m about to tell you to do will be a test of your literary backbone.

First, shelve the project for a few weeks. You earned a break. Then, when you come back to it, read the damn thing as if it is not yours. Have you ever downloaded an indie book from Amazon, and your inner editor just tore it apart?

Do that.

And that’s not a jab at my indie family, by the way. Some of my favorite reads happen to be self-published. It’s just that some of us need professional editors, and that’s okay. In fact, many of us moonlight as professional editors, and if you are one of them, please leave your info and/or website in the comment section in case one of us needs you later.

Okay. Maybe you’re not at the point of needing a beta-reader or an editor just yet. I’ve been known get ahead of myself when I’m excited. Plus, the first draft is always trash, right? So you’ll need to go through it once or twice before you let it out to play.

So here’s how you’re going to do that. You’re going to take that mess of a first draft manuscript and turn it into an ebook. Do I sound crazy? Absolutely. But don’t write me off just yet.

I use (and swear by) this program called Scrivener. They are not paying me to say that, I’m just that obsessed with them. But I digress.

They have this neat little feature where you can take your entire manuscript and compile it into a real-life ebook. You guys, it’s like the coolest fucking ever. I literally upload the file into iBook and read it from my freaking phone. And I do this every few months or so for two reasons:

First, I find it incredibly inspiring to see my story in this format. It makes what I’m doing seem real and achievable, and that gives me the kick in the ass I need to keep fighting the good fight.

Secondly, it’s easier to pretend the story is not mine when I read it as an ebook. I read indie publications on my Kindle App all the time, and none of those stories are mine. Reading my draft like this allows me to trick my lady lizard brain into thinking this story isn’t mine either.

Suddenly, I’m not a writer anymore. I’m a reader, and I have no choice but to read straight through to the end like my reader will. This gives me the objectivity needed to tear that fucking thing apart and judge it as mercilessly as I would a fellow author who thinks they shit enough gold to publish a first draft straight out the gate.

Reading your draft as an ebook also gives you zero ways to edit as you read. This minimizes that compulsive need we all have to mess with shit. We’re not editing, we’re reading; stay the course. Keep detailed revision notes, instead. I promise you, you will be back.

Editing after you’ve read the entire story gives you a perspective you otherwise wouldn’t have. This will help you. And if you take anything away from me today, let it be this:

Do not get discouraged. Is it bad? Of course, it is! There’s a reason we’re born tiny, uncoordinated rolls of skin that can’t speak and rely solely on our mothers for everything; we must grow. And that’s what your little bundle of ink-and-paper is doing right now. It’s growing.

If you need a shoulder to cry on in the meantime, my inbox is always open, and so is my comment section.

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Moira is a self-identified space cadet currently trapped in the desolate wasteland of Upstate New York. She was first published at the age of nine in an anthology for children that still lives permanently on her bookshelf. Her hobbies include wine, television, and overthinking everything.

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