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How to Write and Publish Your Book #2

Posted by Andy McDermott / Director Publicious Pty Ltd on 28 May 2014

2nd, 3rd, 4th drafts and beyond – self-editing

Hi all and a big welcome from San Francisco. Yes folks I’m sitting on the dock of the bay while writing this post.

Last time, we spoke about getting started with that manuscript. Here’s a quick recap:

  • Time - choose or make a time to write and stick to it.
  • Place - Find a comfortable place to write, away from distractions
  • Set a Goal – decide how many words you want to write in a day and make sure you achieve it

The main message was, just do it. When writing your first draft don’t worry about grammar or punctuation or any research at this time, just let the writing flow without you getting in the way.

The 2nd draft

Unfortunately, too many novice writers believe that when they have finished their first draft their book is finished.  This belief is far from reality.

When you start working on your 2nd draft you enter what I term as the self-edit stage. Now is the time to read through your complete manuscript (ms). If you’re like me, some parts of your prose will bring on a response such as, ‘Oh my God, what was I thinking when I wrote that,’ while others will evoke, ‘wow, that’s not too shabby!’

When you’ve read through the entire ms, go back to the beginning and start again. This is the time for you to start editing your own work. Check for following:

  • Clichés’ - this problem for writers is 'as old as the hills' - Ouch! (remove them all or they could do your writing and possibly your reputation some harm)
  • Redundancies, check to make sure you’re not over emphasising eg, The big car was huge.
  • Superfluous description. Do we really need to know every single thing about your characters? Remember less is better. Good writers should be able to create the image of their characters in the minds’ of their readers with a few cleverly chosen words.
  • Remove all pronouns. Don’t try to give extra emphasis to your dialogue by saying something like, … John said angrily. Instead use the dialogue to evoke the emotion.
  • Sentence structure. Keep your sentences short. If you stumble on a sentence or it doesn’t read rhythmically, chance is you haven’t structured it properly. The standard form of sentence structure in the English language is – Subject-Verb-Object (SVO). Sentences not adhering to this formula are fragmented sentences.
  • Use one Point Of View (POV) at a time.

The second draft is also the time to do your research and slot it into the story. Remember, that as a fiction writer I am primarily focusing on writing novels and I understand that this method of writing may be different for non-fiction writers.

This is also the time to start chopping out what’s not required. Be brave, sometimes it’s the bits that you are most proud of that either have no relevance to the story or won’t make sense to your readers.

“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.”

Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, On the Art of Writing 1916.

The 3rd, 4th drafts and beyond

There’s no ruling on how many drafts you will need to carry out. It really depends on your book and how you write it. The 2nd draft will be work intensive in a very different way from the 1st draft, for this reason I would strongly suggest at least another draft. But here’s a little trick that I use to make the whole process of self-editing a lot easier. If you can, put the ms away between each draft for as long as possible.

Don’t read it. Don’t even think about it. Do something else, something to get your mind of your book completely. I would suggest a minimum of two weeks but longer if possible. I actually placed a 150,000-word novel in the bottom drawer and left it there untouched for a year.

When I dusted off my ms after a year and read it again, it was like reading someone else’s work, and we all know how easy it is to pick up errors and typos in other peoples prose, don’t we?

After a break away from your story, the self-editing works better because you’ve distanced yourself from the storyline.

I’m not suggesting that you put your ms away as long as this, but believe me, the longer you can, the easier it will be to work on it and the better your writing will be for it.

Next time I’ll be posting from one of my favourite cities, The Big Apple. I’ll be discussing the next phase in writing, ‘Working with a professional editor.’

Until then, write on…


Andy McDermott / Director Publicious Pty LtdAuthor:Andy McDermott / Director Publicious Pty LtdConnect via:TwitterLinkedIn
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