Revising the First Draft of Your Novel

Q: What is the first job in revising one’s first draft of one’s novel? -R. Harris

Sol Stein, author of “Stein on Writing” recommends triage: take care of the biggest items first. I agree with Stein. First, check the word count and make sure it’s in the right range for your type of book.

Novels should be between 50,000 and 100,000 words, by rule of thumb. If you have only 40,000 words, your second draft should address how to add exciting, plot-related scenes that bring the word count up to 50,000 or above. If your manuscript has 150,000 words, look for useless chapters and scenes you can delete, to bring down the word count.

No matter what your word count, look for anything that detracts from the plot, such as a character who is overly developed for the minor part he or she plays in the story. Delete scenes that do not move the story forward. Delete as much narrative (telling) as possible without losing all the background information. Change it into action and dialogue, whenever possible.

Think big in your first revision. Ponder whether the concept hangs together or if anything diminishes the effect of the plot. Make sure all the elements tie in and the conclusion is believable and in keeping with the rest of the story.

After you tackle the big slashes and/or additions, you can get down to the minor details and technicalities in your next draft.

Bobbie Christmas
Owner of Zebra Communications, a Literary Services Firm