The Five Stages of Writing, Re-Writing and Editing

Assuming you have got to know your character and have a skeleton outline of the story that will become your novel, you are just five stages away from completion …

First Draft

  • The stage when you are telling the story to yourself.
  • No need to concentrate on spelling, layout or punctuation, just get the story out of your head and onto the page.
  • Careful planning prior to commencement of writing the story makes this easier.
  • Try not to edit anything at this stage. ­ Editing cancels out your creativity.
  • Just keep going forwards, one page at a time until you have finished.

Second Draft

  • At this stage you can type up your handwritten draft.
  • Decide whether your novel has started in the right place. Writers often launch in too early, giving too much explanation or backstory rather than going straight in at a point of action.
  • Be discerning and omit episodes, scenes and characters that either are not really adding anything to your novel or moving it forwards.
  • Places that you’ve ‘skipped over’ may need expansion – sometimes scenes that are too descriptive may need ‘playing out’ using dialogue and character action.
  • Wherever possible, ensure that you are ‘showing’ rather than ‘telling.

Third Draft

  • At this stage you should go through the typed draft, from the beginning through to the end on the screen.
  • Keep the momentum with this read through so you don’t ‘lose’ what you have already read.
  • Check every word is the best it can be, using the ‘synonyms’ function on your computer. Every word counts.
  • Ensure consistency in terms of viewpoint and character details.
  • Beware of ‘overwriting.’ Of being too wordy. Less is often more so go easy with the adjectives.
  • Keep asking yourself whether you have got a story that your reader can get ‘lost in.’ Make the novel ‘universal’ rather than ‘personal.
  • Remember that reading should be an active process – enable the reader to ‘fill in the gaps’ themselves sometimes.

Fourth Draft

  • Now you should print out your entire novel and annotate with a pen. You will notice things on the page that you didn’t on the screen
  • Again, keep the momentum with this read through so you do not forget earlier details and the characters continue to live within you.
  • Ensure consistency in terms of tense – it is so easy to slip in and out of past and present tense.
  • Check everything relating to spelling, grammar and punctuation
  • Are there any incidences in your novel that you need to improve – where perhaps it is important to check your facts through further research.
  • Can any scenes be improved with more sensory detail? Go beyond just the visual.
  • Check all your chapters are demarcated where you want them. Does each chapter offer a beginning, middle and end?
  • Do the scenes within each chapter contain a beginning, middle and end?
  • Return to the screen and make all theFifth Draft
  •  necessary corrections
  • Read the novel aloud, k
  • eeping all the aforementioned points in mind and editing as necessary.
  • Reading aloud, paying attention to the dialogue. Is it authentic?
  • This out loud reading will highlight any general clumsiness and interruption of flow.

Then …

  • If possible, get someone else to read it. A proof reader should spot mistakes and will be able to comment on content.
  • Congratulations! Your novel should now be the best it can be so get it sent of to an agent or 
  • publisher!

(c) Maria Stephenson


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