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How to Edit Your First Draft: Really Useful Links by Lucy O’Callaghan

Writing.ie | Resources | Essential Guides | Links for Writers
Lucy O'Callaghan

Lucy O’Callaghan

Getting your first draft finished is a huge achievement and you definitely need to give yourself a pat on the back. But it is only the start. It’s called the first draft for a reason; there are many more to come. Editing is in the rewriting. Emma Hill says that ‘The first draft is black and white. Editing gives the story colour.’ There are many stages to editing your story and where to start and how to go about it can feel overwhelming. I have put together some links to articles and podcasts that I think will help you on your editing journey.

  1. https://shutupwrite.com/how-to-edit-the-first-draft-of-your-novel/

Leaving your story to one side is invaluable as it means you come back to it with fresh eyes. Make a list of the problems you come across as you read, then, this article tells you, you can come up with solutions to these.

  1. https://jerichowriters.com/how-to-edit-your-first-draft-novel-a-checklist/

This article explains how to cut down your word count. It has plenty of examples from the writer’s own work.

  1. https://writersedit.com/fiction-writing/7-mistakes-to-avoid-when-editing-your-first-draft/

Seven mistakes to avoid when editing the first draft, including starting the editing process straight away, and expecting to have a perfect first draft. They advise you not to share it just yet and do not edit without a plan otherwise you’ll quickly find yourself getting bogged down. Also shared here are some useful questions to bear in mind when editing.

  1. https://www.well-storied.com/blog/10-things-editing-first-draft

Read this as a blog or listen to the podcast. Keeping your character’s story arcs, the pacing of the story, and the overall theme in mind when reading through your first draft is important when editing. You may need to re-establish your characters wants and needs.

  1. https://www.writerswrite.co.za/15-ways-to-edit-a-first-draft/

According to this article, beginnings and endings may need to be changed now that you have got your story down, sections may have to be moved. They also give you guidance in formatting your document and checking for inconsistencies.

  1. https://www.curtisbrowncreative.co.uk/an-editors-guide-to-editing-your-novel/

Jennifer Kerslake, a former editor from Orion Publishing Group, tells the writer that it is in editing that the story really takes shape. She says that editing is a craft: it requires technique and dedication and practice.


  1. https://themerrywriterpodcast.podbean.com/e/how-do-you-edit-your-first-draft-ep-074-the-merry-writer-podcast/

Two writers discuss how they approach editing their first draft and share their useful tips.

  1. https://www.thecreativepenn.com/2020/06/15/self-edit-your-novel/

In this podcast, the three stages of editing are discussed. Each stage is broken down and explained.

  1. https://theeditingpodcast.captivate.fm/episode/kinds-of-writer

Identifying what kind of writer you are can help you work out the kind of editing that suits you best is the message in this short podcast.

It is useful to bear in mind Shannon Hale’s words ‘I am writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shovelling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.’ Editing can take time, quite often longer than writing the first draft takes. But it is worth it. Patience is needed too; line editing can be painstakingly slow but remember that every little edit you do is improving your story.

Remember after each pass to check spelling and grammar. https://grammarhow.com/ is just one site that provides lots of useful tips.

I hope these will assist you in taking the next step along the editing process and that this week’s column has been helpful. If there are any particular writing topics you want me to cover, please get in touch.

(c) Lucy O’Callaghan

Instagram: lucy.ocallaghan.31.

Facebook: @LucyCOCallaghan

Twitter: @LucyCOCallaghan

About the author

Writing since she was a child, Lucy penned her first story with her father called Arthur’s Arm, at the ripe old age of eight. She has been writing ever since. Inspired by her father’s love of the written word and her mother’s encouragement through a constant supply of wonderful stationary, she wrote short stories for her young children, which they subsequently illustrated.
A self-confessed people watcher, stories that happen to real people have always fascinated her and this motivated her move to writing contemporary women’s fiction. Her writing has been described as pacy, human, moving and very real.
Lucy has been part of a local writing group for over ten years and has taken creative writing classes with Paul McVeigh, Jamie O’Connell and Curtis Brown Creative. She truly found her tribe when she joined Writer’s Ink in May 2020. Experienced in beta reading and critiquing, she is currently editing and polishing her debut novel.
Follow her on Instagram: lucy.ocallaghan.31. Facebook and Twitter: @LucyCOCallaghan

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