How to Edit Your First Draft

by Sylvia Wan, Age 20, Australia


First drafts are full of plot holes, dangling threads and character inconsistencies. There are also clichés, repetition and grammar and spelling mistakes. First drafts must be edited before printing or seeking a publisher.

The first step is to shove your draft into a drawer for at least two weeks. When you first finish your draft, you are still in the writer’s mind-frame. You want to edit with the fresh eyes of a reader, not a writer.

After the marinating period, start big. Reread your story and fix major issues. If story parts aren’t connecting, toss chapters around or rewrite them. Brainstorm solutions to the characters’ problems and finish any scenes you skipped. If your character’s cat has amber eyes in chapter one and green eyes in chapter seven, fix it up!

Then move onto individual scenes. Some of them won’t work. They were a drag to write and they are a drag to read. Ask yourself: is this scene necessary to drive the plot forward? If the answer is no, scrap it. If the answer is yes, ask yourself why it isn’t working. Does it lack emotion? Action? Is it too long? Or too short? Once you’ve figured it out, rewrite it.

The final stage is scrutinizing sentences. Choose the right words. Don’t be repetitious. Pick different words from a thesaurus. Don’t use two words when you can use one e.g. instead of She was really happy, use She was ecstatic or She was joyful.

Editing is a long and tedious process. But the more time and effort you put in, the more presentable your manuscript becomes and one day, when you see your novel stocked in bookstores, you’ll know it was worth every second and every drop of sweat.


Silvia Wan is a 20 year old Australian writer whose goal is to become an ecologist and an author. Silvia writes articles for several local newsletters and recently started her own blog to document her journey as a writer and inspire others.


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