How To Love Your First Draft - What To Do When You Finally Finish your Novel Or Poem

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Just finished your first draft, and fighting the urge to cry and set it on fire? Or are you riding high on adrenaline, and considering sending your still-drying manuscript to every publisher in the country? Take a deep breath, calm down, and check out my favourite tips on how to love your first draft. (They’ve saved much of my own writing from being permanently exiled to the recycling bin.) 

Get some distance 

Time and space is important. Put your draft in a (literal or metaphorical) draw for a month or so before revisiting it to regain some clarity. Writing is an exhausting process – we all need to take a step back from the small print once in a while in order to appreciate the bigger picture. 

Take the time to format your manuscript so that it is uniform and professional looking 

This may seem like a thankless task considering that you’re likely going to conduct extensive revisions to your manuscript, but tidying your manuscript will alter your frame of mind, lift your spirits, and improve your perspective when you revisit it. 

A great tip is to change your font so that it’s easier for you to spot any mistakes when you begin the editing process. Increasing the size also helps to spot any pesky typos. 

Print off or even bind your book 

It’s a great feeling to see you work in physical form. Having something to hold makes you realise how much you’ve done, and also allows you to catch errors that could be missed on-screen. 

List what you love about your draft 

It’s easy to get bogged down in the negative, so take the time to list your strengths. Often, we only see the weaknesses in our work, but the best writers know how to identify their strengths as well as weaknesses. 

Revisit earlier versions of your first draft  

Editing only improves your work, and it’s often a great confidence boost to revisit an earlier version of your draft to see how far you and your manuscript has progressed. Revisiting earlier drafts can also help you identify and later reintroduce anything that you may have omitted, but feel would strengthen the manuscript. 

Don’t start querying yet 

Your magnum opus is not ready yet, so you will need to take the time to polish your work before you show it to anyone.  

In today’s competitive publishing industry, your manuscript needs to at a more mature stage of development when sent to a publisher or an agent to stand the best chances, should traditional publishing be your preferred option for your book.

It is possible that you will only get one chance to showcase your work, so don’t jump the gun too soon by sending your first draft to a publisher or agent just yet if you are not already represented by one.

Look forward to the editing process 

Pruning generally only improves your work, and if you can get into the right headspace before you begin editing, the process will be far more enjoyable and conducive to success.  

Editing, like writing, is a labour of love, even if it is difficult. Know that with every tracked change, you are growing as an author, and polishing your diamond. 

If you’re concerned about being too brutal and worried about chopping out something you’ll miss, save your work as a separate document before beginning to edit.

Finally and most importantly, reward yourself  

You’ve done an awesome job, so make sure that however you feel about your first draft, you take the time to reward yourself. Writing is no mean feat, so ‘treat yo’self,’ and mark this momentous milestone. 

If you’re a poet or fiction author who has just finished their first draft, why don’t you have a look at my Little Darlings packages for poetry collections and novels? Tailored to offer critical first feedback on your first draft, I will offer you honest, but confidence-building advice to set you up for the next leg of your writing journey. Please contact me today for a quote, or send me the first 500 words of your work for a free, basic review. 

Chloe Murphy