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August 24, 2015

What To Do After The First Draft


A lot of times authors use the first draft to get all the information that’s in their head out on the page.

We have so many feelings and emotions around writing that sometimes they can actually stop us from doing so.

Any kind of brain dump is good.

But after the brain dump then what do we do?

From experience I can tell you that this is the time to actually define what you want your book to be.

So first it’s weeding out the different stories in the material you have. We normally have about five or six stories within the initial draft, because we're writing so quickly.

Set the work aside for a month. Come back to it. Read with fresh eyes and start to identify the different stories you could create from this one work.

Afterwards look over the options and mark those that you don’t want to tell right now and focus on the one you do.

From there it’s back to the drawing board. Sometimes you have to toss a lot of existing material, maybe you keep a sentence or even a paragraph, only to rewrite again and again. Go slow this next round.

It’s an iterative process. Each time getting clearer and clearer and more focused on the point of the work.

The more fixated you are on the point of what you’re writing the easier it is to focus the writing and eliminate what’s not essential to the story.

And sometimes what happens is that you see you don’t have enough material for a book.

What then?

You can turn the work into an article on the topic; you can create an e-book (which is normally less than a printed book), or you can find a way to expand the topic or include the topic into a bigger book.

If the topic is too narrow then you want to start thinking of how it connects to the outside world – what statement could you make about the topic + the topic and the world.

This happens often with memoir. They become a bit narrow, which means they’re focused too much on the personal experience of the author and neglect seeing the problem outside of personal context.

How can your story make a comment on what’s going on in the world today? Or how can you weave your story in with current research and studies to make a point about loss, love, hope, strength, etc.

The point to take away here is that we don't always know what we are writing when we first sit down in front of the computer. But as we keep showing up and defining and redefining what we're doing the closer we get to creating something unforgettable.

It's a process of assessing the work over and over again. Always getting clearer and making the right choices to keep the work alive.




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