I’ve heard of authors who tweak their story as they write it, taking the time to get every word down just right so that by the time they write “The End”, they’re pretty much done. If you’re one of those writers, I envy you. I don’t do that. Instead I spew out my first draft and hope to hell I can fix it when I get to the dreaded “E” stage (that dirty word: Editing).
For those of you like me, I’m talking today about what we can do to get that first draft into publish-worthy format. (For extra help, check out the Workshop “The Art of Layering: From First Draft to Final Manuscript” given by Renee Ryan at RWA’s 2009 conference). Here are a few of the things I automatically do when revising a manuscript:
- Add Emotion
It’s hard for me to properly portray what a character is feeling in my first draft. I’ll do my best but I always know it’s going to fall a bit flat. This is an automatic fix when I’m revising that first draft. I’ll add some actions and sentences meant to strengthen the emotion, and will change weaker words to those that automatically portray more emotion (“walked” will become “stomped” or “stalked”; “looked” will become “glared” or “gazed”).
- Layer in 5 Senses
We’ve all heard about using the 5 senses in writing. This helps bring the world to life and makes your reader feel like they are in the middle of the story. I’m bad about writing the sense of smell into my first draft, and I know it. So once my first draft is done, I’ll do a ‘5-sense’ check for each scene, layering in use of the senses where needed.
- Add Subtext
With every scene, there are always things going on beneath the surface. It’s those layers of subtext that add depth and richness to the story. This is something you can’t always get down on the first draft. Maybe the hero and heroine will argue over something minor, but subconsciously there is another issue at heart. Or the heroine leads the hero to believe she thinks he’s a major asshole, when what she really thinks is he’s a danger to her heart. Or an object is used as a metaphor for one of the characters or the relationship.
- Add Movement
My first drafts look something like this:
She looked over at him.
He cocked a brow.
Nothing wrong with those sentences, but that tends to be most of what they do throughout the entire novel. Once I’ve finished that first draft, I go back in and revise these movements. By then I’ve got a better idea of the characters’ internal motivations for each scene, so I can add movement that mirrors that internal motivation, even if it’s in opposition to what they say.
What are some of the things you do to complete your manuscript once you’ve finished the rough draft? Or if you work your story as you go along, please tell me, how do you do it?