If you’re writing fiction and haven’t published your novel, it’s likely that you’re intimidated by your first draft.
Relax. The story on the page may disappoint you, but consider that this is your chance to transform the mass of material into the ideal novel you’ve imagined.
Revising and editing will change your muddle into a real story. Your muddle may even become a bestseller.
All the fiction authors in our writing group say that their novels go through a “muddle” stage.
The muddle stage is normal when you’re writing fiction
It’s time to write your second draft. This isn’t changing everything and rewriting your novel from the beginning. It’s more akin to a jigsaw puzzle.
Just as with a jigsaw puzzle, you’re choosing pieces and putting them into place. You may discard pieces and craft new ones.
Start with these steps.
1. Decide: what’s the point? (The story question)
Before you do anything else, reread the draft, as a reader might. Look for the pieces which are GOOD: those bits that make you feel, because fiction is emotion—entertainment.
Next, check for the point of your book. Sometimes this is known as the story question.
In essence, it’s the goal your main character is trying to achieve.
2. Rewrite the BIG scenes: the building blocks
Most novels have three big scenes.
For example, in a romance, they might be:
- The “meet cute” scene, is where your hero and heroine meet.
- The mid-point. At this stage, the two commit to each other. In some romances, they make love.
- The shock-horror scene. In this scene, the romance is all off.
Rewrite these scenes, focusing on the emotion. Your readers will remember these scenes, so go all out. Pay attention to the setting, as well as to your lead-up scenes.
3. Create new scenes to fill the holes in your plot
All plots have holes. Read through your novel again, and check the characters’ behavior and thoughts. Do they make sense, logically? If any character’s behavior doesn’t make sense, that’s fine — you’ll need to foreshadow the weird behavior.
While you’re checking, write new scenes where you need them.
4. Pay attention to your timeline
Although many authors consider timelines boring, you need to check, and recheck your timeline, so that your plot and characterizations make sense.
What if you haven’t created a timeline? Create one now.
Readers notice oddities: perhaps a character is newly pregnant, then suddenly gives birth. A timeline gives your novel continuity and coherence.
When you’re writing fiction, be aware that it’s a process
The above steps can’t transform a muddle into a novel instantly. However, they’re a powerful first stage when you’re revising a novel. They’ll inspire and motivate you.
No matter how great your muddle seems, with these steps done, the editing process becomes much easier.
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