author, creative writing, writing

How to Fix a Fractured First Draft

Writing a novel comes in stages, first drafts to seconds drafts to third drafts, and on it goes. The first draft is always a challenge, and often a mess. So if your first draft is fractured or all over the place, here’s some tips to fix it.

Create a timeline
A timeline is a great way to keep track of how your story moves. You may already have this from the planning stage, but if not, now is a good time. I couldn’t work out what was making my draft so broken, and it turned out to be my lack of knowledge of the timeline. Once I put one in place, everything got easier.
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Break down each chapter
Copy each chapter into it’s own document. Break it down. Check your opening lines, make sure they will draw the reader in. Bulk out the sparse paragraphs and cut down the ones that are too wordy. Look out for overuse of the same words or phrases. Search for cliches. And craft an end-of-chapter sentence that will force the reader to turn the page.
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Delete what’s not needed
Cut the crap! But seriously, find those wordy descriptions, those unnecessary words, those boring pieces of dialogue and cut them out.  It happens, in a first draft. We over explain because we’re trying to understand it ourselves. We tell, more than we show. This is a great stage to whittle away what’s not needed, to make things more subtle, and to keep things concise.
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Build upon your descriptions
Anybody else guilty for writing ‘description here’ or ‘blah blah blah’ when you’re trying to get the story down for the first time? I know I am. Fix the draft by filling out the descriptions, and building on the ones you’ve already got. Make them sing. The reader should be able to hear, smell and see everything that’s happening.
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Take notes
Make note of your initial thoughts. Be honest with yourself. Is a chapter too dull, a character description too weak, and plot line too obscure? Jot down your thoughts as you work through your draft, because it’ll help you fix the things that are broken. You can then use these thoughts to enhance your editing when you move onto the next draft.
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Start again from the top
Speaking of moving onto to the next draft…here it is. Start again from the top. No-one would publish a first draft, and to be honest, most second drafts will be un-publishable too. So start again. Go right back to chapter one and do it all again…and again…until you’re happy.
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Share your editing tips below, I’d love to read them!

Until then,
Keep writing,

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18 thoughts on “How to Fix a Fractured First Draft”

  1. I have a specific hard lesson I’ve learned that’s tied to the first tip, timeline: To keep track of time, I’ve started pretty much every chapter/scene (that did not blend into the previous) with an indication of how much time has passed. Which, as one of my betas pointed out, get repetitive, so one of the passes I did recently was pretty much just about eliminating those things.

    Descriptions are also something I struggle with, and my first drafts are often vague on that front – I build on them draft by draft.

    Looking at it, I have to admit I don’t have a clear way of editing – it’s just an iterative process where I go through the story to write down issues – smaller ones can be fixed relatively soon while major issues might lay untouched for a few weeks until I find a way to sort them out that I’m satisfied with.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Tomas. I struggled with the timeline too, in the sense that my scenes jumped back and forward throughout the day – it was awful! Thank god for the editing process haha xx


  2. I’ve got a peer review buddy who puts markers like “insert name” or “add description” to skip past the parts he needs to think about. I’ve never been able to do that. I’ve got to write from start to finish. It’s like my own sort of OCD.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This was SO good! Especially the “cut the crap”. One thing I’ve really found is when something isn’t working, so often the best thing to do is just delete it instead of slaving over it and trying to make it work.

    Liked by 1 person

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