Spring clean-up: 4 points for a positive experience reviewing your draft
Spring is here! The traditional spring clean up is upon us and it shouldn’t only mean our garage or winter clothes. Your book’s First draft too has to go through the whole sort-clean-rearrange process. Often, the whole thing feels as painful as having to throw away a pair of shoes just because they are washed-out. It doesn’t mean you don’t like them but it has to be done.
Ask the right question
Ending a first draft might be the best feeling for a writer. Except looking at the finished version of the book for the first time. The work in between can be hard and frustrating. I found the best way to live these times smoothly was to always keep in my mind the reason you are writing this book: where it came from and what it is for.
Look at the beautiful artistic mess that is your first draft. Enjoy it, admire it and then look for the reasons you don’t like it.
- Remember why you wanted to write this book in the first place. Your objective may have changed. It’s okay, if it’s a change you actually want. Often, writers are just taken into a project and follow a path just because it’s there, not because that’s really where they want to go. Maybe you read an article online about someone else’s successful story. Maybe someone told you “you should totally (…)”. Maybe you went to a writer’s conference. Make sure you are always taking your book where you want it to be.
Divide and conquer
The never-ending draft re-work is the one where you start thinking you are looking for spelling mistakes and end-up rewriting a whole paragraph to change a scene. You’ll get lost and feel like you aren’t making any progress. Define what you’re working on and stick to it.
If I can give you express tips to avoid that, they’d be:
- Keep proofreading for the end. You’ll have to do it right at the end anyway if you have changed structures, sentences, etc. so avoid doing the work twice.
- For proofreading, start by the end and correct each sentence from the last to the first.
- Find out if you are more of a chopping into small parts person or dividing into small tasks person.
- For the later, you can proofread the whole book just looking for spelling mistakes and then re-read entirely for verb concordances.
- For the first, go through every step of correction sentence by sentence, or paragraph by paragraph (depending on how small your pieces need to be)
The right balance between insight and hindsight.
Writing a book requires a level of personal involvement making it hard to not consider the finished draft like a part of ourselves. Who would want to scramble through a whole part of oneself and look for all the things to change, correct and remove?
To be able to correctly clean up your manuscript, you’re going to want to take a step back and have a vision of the thing a bit less personal. But then again, you don’t want to lose the very essence of what makes your book yours and not something someone else could have written.
Time and money
Reworking a book is very time-consuming and I’d first take the time to evaluate what time I’m willing to spend on the whole work and balance it against a monetary investment I may want to do to delegate a bit of the work to professionals. Especially for proofreading the whole thing at the end but also to help me work on the book’s structure, balance and flow. An external eye can be a great inspiration to make your manuscript the book you always had in mind.
Always keep in mind that it is your project and you’ll need to love the final result. First, because that’s only good sense. Then, because that’s the best way to be able to promote it: if you don’t believe your book is great, who will?