Self editing my first draft

Over the last two days I’ve read through the first draft of a work in progress.

I finished this draft three months ago. This is how long I take before I revisit a manuscript. Any sooner and I wouldn’t be able to clearly see what elements need work.

I had some doubts about this novel, and as usual, other ideas to make it a masterpiece (ha ha, we dream) sprung up and were jotted into a notebook in the downtime. In this case they were ideas for bridging scenes that help give context to some of the relationships. After reviewing, I can see these scenes are needed.

My editing space for ‘The Midnight Man’. A cafe.

My other concern was the main fantasy character in this piece.

After I wrote it I felt that this character was not three dimensional. But I knew I had to wait until I revised to see if I was being hard on myself or if my instincts were correct. After all, he was mapped out, given a history, and a suitable image of him was found on Google and added to my notes. Part of me thought that I’d come back to the manuscript with a fresh outlook and realise that he becomes more real as each fantasy sequence unfolds.

But my instincts were right. Sometimes he’s even one dimensional. Yes, his hopes and dreams are played out, but his whole purpose is to help another character find himself. He does this beautifully.

So he will now be based on a friend of ours circa 2006. I’m already looking forward to how others will describe him. I remember many conversations with my partner about the real life person he’ll be based on. We understood his fears and concerns clearly.

On the plus side, some scenes rock!

You always know when you have a good writing day. When all cylinders are firing and the words seem to write themselves. They often become favourite scenes because after they’ve hit the page, very little needs to be changed.

There’s a middle aged man and mother relationship that works beautifully. There are also two scenes that include characters from some of my other novels which come to life, because these characters were already clear in my head.

But to my surprise, one pivotal fantasy scene is perfect. I remember writing it and being personally moved by it. It’s refreshing to see that in my revisit, it still works.

This particular novel was a stop-start affair.

I didn’t get around to starting it until a year after I thought of the plot. Then, due to work pressures, it became one of those manuscripts that got pushed aside twice. Then it had to be re-read so that any new scenes would have the same feel.

Which is why seeing the last version of your work in progress has to be done with some distance. You see its strengths, its weaknesses, and where it needs a little sprucing up. After all, it’s far from being a gem yet!

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