Note: The TRICK takes 30 minutes or less, not the process of fixing your rough draft
When You’ve Finished A Rough Draft…
You’ve done what so many people dream of doing. Butt-in-seat, you got your story out.
But now what?
You’ve got this mess of a draft sitting there in front of you. Sometimes, it’s long and messy, other times it’s short and sparse.
But it doesn’t matter. You wrote a novel!
Unfortunately, your friends and family, the ones who are supportive (or at least are faking it), are now asking when they can read it!
One problem: it’s a mess! So step one? Edit it! Get your butt back in your seat and make that thing readable.
After You’ve Edited It…
If you’re anything like me, you thought you edited it, but really, you’ve just been doing line edits and making the sentences readable. You haven’t actually revised it.
The plot, pacing, and flow? Everything’s still a mess.
You’re beginning to despair of ever turning this manuscript into something people might want to read.
That’s where my secret trick comes in.
Well, maybe it’s not a secret, but it is a nifty trick.
Sit down, think about your dream agent, and write a query letter!
What, Morgan!? You gasp in horror and fear. It’s not remotely ready for outside-eyes, especially not an agent!
As you know, it’s not polite to keep querying an agent every time you make a new draft. You want to wait to query until you’re sure it’s ready.
So Morgan, why am I writing a query and how is this going to fix my rough draft? you ask.
I can feel you looking at me askance and sighing, this sounds like one of those mumbo-jumbo esoteric writing exercises.
Well, yes. Yes, it is. But when you write your query letter, you’re reducing your story, your world, all your beloved characters in their most basic form:
Main character + wants A + but B + stands in their way
Writing queries is hard. It’s a completely different skill than writing a novel, or even a short story. You’ve barely got 200 words to say EVERYTHING.
Yet, when writing your query letter, a strange thing happens…
You find out what the story you wrote is about.
What? You ask. I wrote the thing. It can’t be possible for me to NOT to know what my own story is about: clearly, it’s about Main Character and Major Plotline!
But, when you reduce it down to its bones, that’s when you can see what lies beneath the skin of your story.
You find your story’s theme. Often, something you didn’t even know you were trying to say.
You find your core plot, which may have been an over-arching plot that you couldn’t see for the trees.
Together, the theme and the core plot provide you with a compass to help you plot your way through your rough draft.
Finally, It’s Time To Revise.
Once you know both:
- Which plot points you want to emphasize
- What the theme at the core of your story is
Then, it’s easier to see which scenes and characters are supporting those plots and themes.
If you have a scene or a character that doesn’t support the core plot or theme, you’ve got a few options:
- Delete it
- Edit so it DOES support the core plot or theme
- Revise the query to re-analyze your manuscript and reorient that ‘compass’
After You Revise?
Rewrite your query.
Every new draft deserves a new query. The story may have taken you in new and exciting directions.
And that’s it. That’s my trick to figuring out how to revise that rough draft of mine.
What tricks do you use to get your rough draft in shape?
Do you ever write your query before you even draft?