We’ve spoken a lot about that first draft. It’s the place where you let loose, write anything and everything that comes to mind. It’s the time to riff like you’re in minute 5 of a guitar solo and you just don’t want to stop. It’s the improv phase. Even if you had an outline.
So we’re going to assume you had a blast, and now you have a first draft on your screen. A big, beautiful, messy, crazy first draft.
You, staring at that first draft like…
Now, you get ready to edit.
When editing, you’ll focus on a myriad of things: plot, character, world-building, scenes, beats, every line of dialogue… every line… every word…. We’ll look at these in more detail in future posts, but right now, we recommend doing what will feel so unnatural to you: set that first draft aside for a while.
Not for too long — you don’t want to lose your momentum — but you need to give yourself time to recharge, refresh, and, most importantly, readjust your thinking. This time away can be whatever you need: finishing an episode, or season, or — let’s be honest — a series, on Netflix, having a get-together with all those friends you’ve been neglecting since you were captured by your muse, or just a long walk to see what the world outside of the one you just created looks like.
It’s also not a bad idea to take this time to clear your schedule. If your first draft is a 50 yard dash, editing is the 26.2 mile marathon and you’re going to need to set aside time to keep up a good pace.
The first draft was the raw material. Editing is engineering, where you hone and craft and rebuild and shore up and make sure your story has narrative load bearing walls… ok, enough construction metaphors, but you do have to think that way a little bit.
Now you have to roll up your sleeves, and get ready to make thousands of changes.
Oh yes. Remember when in The Martian, Matt Damon is facing a terrifying, unwieldy, seemingly impossible situation, and his response was how he was gonna science the shit out of it? That’s you, right now.
You, solving a narrative problem while editing. Promise.
You kind of want to go back to Netflix right now, don’t you? Resist the urge! You can celebrate with Orange Is The New Black (or your fifteenth Gilmore Girls rewatch) when you finish your second draft.
For now, trust that you work has genius. It’s there, glorious and beautiful — you just have to bring it to light. Put on your shades, because now it’s time to get to work…