The first draft of my YA novel BLANK was a complete disaster. I had taken a random approach to writing it, jotting down whatever I could between diaper changes and other distractions. I tried not to concern myself with structure or plot, thinking I would fix all that “later.” When “later” became hundreds of pages that somewhat resembled a novel, I knew the task ahead of me was not for the faint-hearted. I experimented with many approaches to get BLANK ready for submission (and eventual publication), and survived, only slightly traumatized, to share these tips for repairing even the most chaotic of first drafts.
1. Take in the Big Picture. Before you can even think about fiddling around with the details in your novel, take a look at the overall plot and structure. Lock yourself away from the world and do a read-through, in one sitting if possible, with these questions in mind: What am I trying to say? What’s this story about? Writing a synopsis helps nail things down.
2. Find your tricks. Experiment with ways of seeing the story that work for you. Jot down scenes on sticky notes and cover your office wall with the plot line. Take long walks and let ideas percolate. Try out storyboarding or novel organizing software (I love Scrivener). Change the font of your manuscript and read it again: this can fool your mind into seeing it as something other than your own writing. Essentially, you don’t know what will help you see things in another light until you’ve tried it. The goal is to get your theme, character motivations and plot structure clear in your mind.
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