Nobody sits down and writes a masterpiece on their first try.
Any writer who tells you different is full of shit.
The first time you sit down to write you can’t be worried about whether your grammar is good or your sentences are too long. What you need to do is write. Sit down and pour it all out on paper. It doesn’t matter at this point if anything makes sense. For the first draft, your only concern should be getting everything out of your head and onto some paper.
Once that’s done, then you go through your writing and pick out all the tangles.
The de-tangling phase is the second draft. This is where you edit to make your writing understandable and readable.
For this process, I find it useful to ask myself questions, such as:
- Am I getting my point across?
- Do the paragraphs flow together?
- Are any sentences too long or too complex?
- What sentences and/or paragraphs can I delete? [Every good piece of writing should have at least three things deleted from it].
- Should I add anything?
- Am I satisfied? Why or why not?
Once you’ve untangled the knots in your writing, it’s time to clean it up. This means line-editing.
Line editing is where you look at each and every sentence individually. Examine the structure of each sentence, check for grammar and spelling mistakes. Decide if you need to keep every sentence or if some are extraneous.
My preferred way of line editing is to do a re-write. I take a blank piece of paper and I write, (well, I type), out each sentence, one at a time. I find this gives me space to look at and play around with each sentence until I’m satisfied.
Then it’s time for the fourth draft.
This draft requires that you perform line-editing and content editing simultaneously. Read through your piece and make sure the line-edits you’ve made haven’t screwed up your content. Check that your content says everything you want it to say, in the way you want it said.
Now, put down your writing and walk away.
Go play a video game, read a book or binge on some Netflix. Whatever you do, don’t touch your writing again until you’ve slept at least 6-8 hours.
Only after you’ve woken up and had your morning coffee can you look at your writing again. At this point, you need to read it over and try to be as objective as possible.
If you’re satisfied, submit it for publication. However, if you have a nagging feeling that it could be better—then you should still submit it.
Yes, I’m serious.
We are our own worst critics. Likewise, we can also think too much of ourselves. In either case, it’s hard to be completely objective. Which is why someone else needs to look at your work. You need someone to either confirm or disprove your feelings.
So, submit it to an editor or get a smart friend to read it. If you don’t have a smart friend you can use an editing app. (My favorite is the Hemingway Editor. )Take what your friend, editor or app has said under advisement. Make changes if necessary, then publish.
Rinse and repeat as needed.
Here’s what my first draft looked like Howmanydraftsdoesittakent
I can be your smart friend or editor. Drop me a line: firstname.lastname@example.org