When you finish your first draft, you should feel a tremendous sense of accomplishment. Not everyone gets to that stage. Sit back and take a moment to congratulate yourself. Announce your achievement to your friends. And then, move to the next crucial step.
Hide it away and forget about it.
It can be tempting to release it to the world, or at least recruit some beta readers or an editor. However, your first draft isn’t ready for that. You’ve still got work to do, but you’re not ready either. Writing takes time, dedication and concentration. It also strips you of any sense of perspective. You have to get close to your story to create it. So close that you can’t see it properly anymore. If you hand your work across now, you won’t see what you could have fixed yourself.
A few weeks should do the trick. After that, you’ll (hopefully!) be refreshed and prepared to self-edit before seeking some outside opinions.
Full disclosure: I haven’t always followed this advice. I wrote a short story back in 2015, and immediately got going with revisions. I also sent it to a few friends, who were too kind to shoot any holes in it. It’s perfect! I thought, and entered it for some short story competitions. Needless to say, it didn’t win.
Instead of telling you more, I’m going to show you. I made a quick editing pass in preparation for this blog, and have attached the result below as a PDF. (I’m much more thorough when editing or proofreading for clients, but this should be enough to demonstrate my point!)
It would need a lot more work if I wanted to publish it. However, this gives you an idea of how much needed to change in this “perfect” piece of writing. I made all of the suggested amendments in less than half an hour, so they weren’t difficult to see. Not once I’d got my sense of perspective back.
Do you give your writing some space once you’ve completed a draft? Or is the urge to stay involved too powerful? Get in touch and let me know!