First Drafts Need Editing
December 07, 2020 by Mason Bell

Sending your first draft out into the harsh world is generally a bad idea. First drafts are chockful of typos and grammar mistakes, not to mention the plot craters and flat characters.

I’ve been on both sides of this common mistake. Once or twice, I’ve been the offender. Once or twice, I’ve been the offendee. The commonality between both was the awkwardness and heartbreak of a stern review, creating doubts about my writing abilities.

If you send the first draft, you’ll most likely hear it didn’t make sense, it was hard to read because of the poor grammar, or the ever-popular you might need to start over, you know, to collect your thoughts.

Here are some hard-learned lessons you might consider before sending your precious book baby to those kind-hearted readers and critique partners you want to keep happy.

Editing manuscripts helps to pinpoint your strengths and weaknesses.

Run that manuscript through a writing program. I use Grammarly for a rough first dive into my manuscript. Comma issues and misspellings are the main focus of this software though it also detects sentence structure to some degree.

If you can, buy ProWritingAid and use it often. This software checks grammar, but it shines at reviewing word choice and sentence structure of a piece. Is pacing a problem? It highlights that. Is passive voice a stumbling block? It does that, too. Wordy sentences, repeated sentence starts, dialog percentages, and style consistencies are a few tasks this program does and does well.

Read your work aloud. Not in a meek whisper, but a strong voice like a reading teacher. Does it make sense? Do the words flow off the tongue? If not, get back to work.

Let someone close to you read a single chapter. Only one chapter. Trust that the reader can determine your skill from a small sample. What is your theme? Who is your audience? If a reader can’t determine this from a single chapter, you got problems. Back to the desk, writer!

While these are only suggestions, such improvements to a first draft will show your critique partners and readers that you’re serious about the writing process and value their time.

You’ll also find your craft improving at a quicker pace. Editing manuscripts helps to pinpoint your strengths and weaknesses, providing valuable feedback instead of punctuation issues.

First drafts are almost always a dumpster fire. It’s good practice to put out the flames before you scorch your readers and critique partners.