Ever Feel Like Your First Draft Is An Ugly Baby?

I mean, you’ve written this story, completed it even, and you’re on a high. You did it! You finished your story! Possibly even won NaNoWriMo at this time of year, too! Well done! You bask in the glory of the moment – as well you should.

But then the inevitable happens: you go back and read your draft.


That was your heart landing on the floor. Because this book you completed, the ‘baby’ you’ve grown? It’s ugly.

Oh, sure, there are pretty bits here and there: maybe a character you love or some dialogue that just zinged in all the right places. But it’s a first draft, and first drafts suck.

Look. No matter how bad your first draft is, I promise you it isn’t as bad as some of mine. I’ve twice written the first 20k and had to toss it all and start again. I’ve written two complete novel drafts that were entirely tossed out the window – both those stories started again from a blank slate. And man, it’s depressing. All that work! All that effort! Blood! Sweat! Tears! And all you have to show for it is this broken piece of garbage. Totally. Unfair.

But there’s good news: all stories are fixable. Sure, you might decide at some point that they’re not WORTH fixing (a few of my short stories that I wrote for classes in uni are like that), but the fact remains that every story is, in theory, fixable.*

*It’s a bad habit of mine to continually tinker with old stories, trying to find ways to fix them. This tinkering would be ad nauseous forever and ever until I died if I hadn’t met HTRYN.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I’ve read a LOT of articles on editing. There’s a lot of good information out there, and a lot of bad information too. As a new writer particularly it can be hard to tell the difference, and for years I floundered with editing, knowing that there were things wrong with my stories but not knowing how to go about fixing them – or sometimes, not even knowing how to identify the problems in the first place.

In 2010, Holly Lisle released her second ‘big’ course: How To Revise Your Novel (HTRYN). I’d already taken her other big course, How To Think Sideways: Career Survival For Novelists (HTTS), which covered how to write a half decent draft in the first place, and I loved it. Holly’s style of teaching really resonates with me, and the techniques I’d learned in HTTS revolutionised not only my own writing, but that of others in my crit group too. (You can read about some of my thoughts while taking the course the first time here on my old blog.)

How To Think Sideways was good. It taught me how to create a draft that had some sense of cogency to it from the get go, and how to deal with problems as they arose. But there are a lot of different ways to write a novel, and not only is each writer different, each book is too.

Editing, on the other hand? Editing is pretty standard. Although different writers (and books) have different strengths and weaknesses, all stories need to be checked for the same things at the edits stage. How To Revise Your Novel was brilliant. Exactly as it says on the box: a step by step guide to editing your novel. Even if you’ve got a couple of novels under your belt, I still recommend this course: I go back to it every time I edit things, and I even do a light version of it for short stories. This course taught me not only what to look for, but a streamlined process of HOW to look for it.

I’ll talk about this in more detail over the next couple of days, because this is way long enough, but I just wanted to give you a heads up: Holly is opening the doors for class registration NEXT WEEK, and this will be the ONLY intake until about this time next year at this point. Trust me: if there’s a way for you to make this happen, you want this course.

And of course, I’ll have a few nifty bonuses for you on offer too if you decide to sign up through my links 😉

Until then, go write more ugly babies. You remember the adage. You can’t edit a blank page. 🙂 🙂 🙂


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