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First Draft - Revise now or later?
Posted: Tuesday, May 31, 2011 12:38 PM
Joined: 3/4/2011
Posts: 11

A few things have been brought to my attention in the first draft of my urban fantasy/noir novel.  They're things that change fundamentals of the story, and I'm unsure if I should take the time now to go back and address these changes, or wait until I'm done banging away on the first draft until it's done.  On the one hand having momentum is a good thing, but on the other I'm eager to see how this change affects the rest of the plot and the lives of my characters.  What are your thoughts?

Jay Greenstein
Posted: Wednesday, June 1, 2011 8:44 PM
What you do depends on the problems that need fixing. If you’re typing form when you mean from; if you use “that” too often (“he thought that it was a good idea,” for example) You keep going, because it’s an editing problem. If you find that the POV is you talking about the story, rather then placing the reader on the scene, you’re going to have to do a LOT of editing, so maybe it’s best to edit into submission and keep going when you hit the current stopping point.

If, on the other hand, your problems are that you’re presenting a chronicle instead of scenes, and having the characters emote to make plot points rather then living the story it’s not something you can fix based on a bit of advice here. You would need to gain additional knowledge of craft and then reorganize the story into a series of scenes that move the plot and raise the tension, constantly. In that case finishing it using your current methods would only be setting bad habits into concrete.

Here’s a test to see which it is. Look at these articles. If, as you read, you find yourself saying, “Yeah, I do that,” then continue writing. If you find yourself saying, “Wow, this is all new stuff…”


I took a quick look at the work you have posted, and my opinion is that Peter Miller hit it right when he said, “There are far too many would-be works of fiction in which plot and character are not revealed, but explained.” It seems to me that too often a given scene is presented to hit a plot point, not because that’s what the character wants to do next.

My personal recommendation would be to acquire a bit more technique and then practice it on the story. Your mileage may differ, of course.

Bill Gleason
Posted: Wednesday, June 22, 2011 4:27 PM
Joined: 4/27/2011
Posts: 18

Based on my own experience, the one point I'd make is to be sure you see how all of the "fundamentals" have changed before beginning a rewrite. IOW, if you feel the story is continuing to evolve as you write, I would wait for the whole of the story to become clear before going back to rewrite the beginning. Otherwise you may find yourself having to start all over for a 3rd time or more as your first revision reveals further substantive changes. I just started working on the second draft of a novel, having written a first draft of everything except the final chapter--or coda--in which any loose ends get wrapped up. By now I can really see the whole story in my mind so a 2nd revision should be sufficient for me to get the novel to the point where it is ready for peer review and, hopefully soon thereafter, submission to a publisher or agent.

Hope that helps.
L R Waterbury
Posted: Thursday, June 23, 2011 12:55 AM
Joined: 4/28/2011
Posts: 60

I used to write an entire first draft before going back to rewrite and revise. I've since changed my approach and now start to rewrite as soon as I realize something just isn't working. I'm an obsessive re-reader and so rewriting just made more sense since I would reread the beginning and it just wouldn't make any sense with what I had written towards the middle and end.

This approach works for me because I'm not an outliner. I make it up as I go along. But I could see how doing a complete write first before doing rewrites would work well for someone who outlines their story completely before putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard).
KJ Bledsoe
Posted: Sunday, September 25, 2011 1:05 AM
Joined: 4/28/2011
Posts: 11

I'm struggling with this right now, myself. Bill's comment about having to start all over for a third time is exactly where I am -- I've already rewritten the first six chapters to change the timeline, and now I'm faced with going back over those same chapters to make another significant change. The option I'm considering is sort of a mix of what's been discussed. I'm thinking of making a note in the document and moving forward from this point with the new change in place, then going back and editing those first chapters later. Thoughts?

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