Wouldn’t it be great if you had your own writer fairy godmother? If there’s a way to transform a pumpkin into a carriage for Cinderella, it’s not asking too much for some assistance in the depths of editing despair. Confession—there is no magic wand to turn a messy first draft of your work in progress into a beautiful finished manuscript. Sorry. I’ve wished upon a shooting star, acted kindly to monsters, made friends with mice, and still no writer fairy godmother has popped out of my computer.
While I can’t offer any magic solutions, I can offer some tips on mindsets and action steps I use to get from the first word to the final draft without losing my mind. Every writer is different and some creative processes work better than others. My wish is that my experiences might make the journey smoother for someone else.
- It’s okay to write a messy first draft. Yes, I mean as messy as a toddler playing in a mud puddle. Picture that image in your mind then accept that your first draft might not be the pristine child dressed in their best clothing sitting for a formal portrait. While writing my first draft, I often become discouraged at the quality of my story and my writing. Honestly, every single one of my first drafts stinks. Too often, my ending is far different than what I had envisioned at the beginning. It’s okay. First drafts are strictly for getting the story on paper (or saved on the computer). It’s amazing the magic that editing can do to even the messiest of first drafts.
- Give yourself a breather after your first draft. Yes! You made it to THE END!! Give yourself a high-five and eat a chocolate bar then kick up your feet and give your fingers a rest. Let the story settle in your head. At the end of my first drafts, I’m usually so burned out on the story that I can’t be an effective editor. I will give myself at least two weeks to gain some separation before diving back in.
- Print out your first draft to read prior to beginning edits. After my break period is over, I send the Word document to have a print copy made. Then, I take a few days and read over the entire story, making notes on the paper. As I came through college prior to the invention of the computer, I find making notes on paper easier for me to manage. Again, I need to remind myself that this is the messy first draft. I’m strictly looking for ways to improve the story arc, characters, motivations, etc. and try not to get too caught up in all the spelling and grammar mistakes.
- When all the edits are complete (or at least I think they are), I save my manuscript in a PDF format and email a copy to myself. (I will email myself Word copies throughout my writing/editing process in case of computer malfunctions) I upload the PDF version onto the iBook app and use the ‘read aloud’ function. I find many spelling mistakes this way. I also use this slow read through to find inconsistencies and weak spots in the story. I’m a fast reader so having to listen helps my brain analyze my writing.
- When your beautiful manuscript is completed and you’re ready to send it off to an editor or agent, this is where the magic of a fairy godmother really would come in handy. A little sprinkle of sparkles from a magic wand and all stories would find their perfect happy ever after. Since we don’t have a real fairy godmother (or at least I don’t), this is where faith comes in. Faith in yourself, belief in your work. You did it! You wrote an entire story from your heart and soul. You are brave enough to send a piece of yourself into the world.
I really do wish there was an enchanted spell that would make the process as easy as eating a bowl of ice cream (unless you’re lactose intolerant). Most things worthwhile take a lot of work and perseverance. But the secret is—you got this! One word at a time, you become your own fairy godmother. You see my dear, you’ve had the magic in you all along.
By: Laurie Winter
Laurie Winter’s head has always been full of stories. Then a dream gave her the inspiration to put her thoughts into written words, sharing a part of her heart and soul. Now, she creates authentic characters who overcome the odds and find true love. Laurie writes sweet romance and romantic suspense. She loves camping with her family and dogs at the many beautiful Wisconsin and Michigan State Parks.