Before you revisit your first draft, there is one thing you need to know: that manuscript you poured over for
hours on end, the one that brought you to tears and caused you to all but overdose on caffeine and rich tea biscuits... it's rubbish – an absolute pile of tat. And the sooner you accept that, the better your second draft will be.
I am not being unnecessarily cruel. In fact, I think knowing that other authors – even really really famous ones – also write dreadful first drafts is comforting. Very rarely does a story come out fully formed and beautiful and, besides, that's not what first drafts are for. First drafts are for getting the story out. Second drafts are for refining it. Third drafts are for making it beautiful.
So, with that in mind – let me prepare you for what you'll experience when you finally unlock your first draft from its drawer.
Number one. Fear.
Trembling hands, dry mouth, staring at the first page without really focussing on it, getting up and making a cup of tea so you don't have to read anything quite yet... this is the moment you've been waiting for, the moment you'll revisit your hard-work and figure out what needs to be done to get it ready for the reading public. Starting to write is hard, but re-reading those first tentative words is even harder. Why? Because when you finished your first draft you felt like the champion of the world. You were floating on air, buzzing with pride. You achieved the impossible – you wrote a novel! But now the buzz has faded and you know that when you re-read it, after stepping away and giving it some space for a few weeks/months/years, you will find countless things that need to be edited or rewritten.
Number two. Happy surprise!
You finally pluck up the courage to read your first chapter... and it's bloody brilliant! You feel like a genius. You've achieved the impossible. Everyone said your first draft would be rubbish but it's not!
Number three. Ah... yuk!
You get past chapter one and it all starts to go down hill. This is because your first chapter is the most rewritten part of your novel, and always will be. So it was bound to be in better shape than the rest of the novel. The rest? Not so much.
Number four. Overwhelm.
So much to do. So many red pen scribbles. You start writing in blue pen too, and green, and purple, so the notes are more distinguishable. Then you add some posits, notepaper, the back of your hand... anything! But there's too much of it! Too much to do!!!
Number five. Determination.
There's lots of work to be done, but it's exciting. You've got new ideas. You know how to make things better, how to make your characters more believable, how to weave in some more intricate plot points. You know it all and you can't wait to get started!!