How to Tell When You’re Done Your First Draft

There are basically three stages of writing:  Fresh Writing, Revising, and Polishing.  It’s important to know what stage you’re at, so your writing can continue to flow with ease. 

If you find yourself trying to correct your writing as you work on a first draft, chances are you stall out in mid-sentence while you wait for the perfect word to show up on the page. If you’re handwriting, all you see are scratched out lines, arrows pointing to new ideas, maybe some tear blots smearing the ink. Writers using a computer don’t have the same evidence. Chances are what they’re staring at is a half-written sentence on a mostly blank page.  

At the Fresh Writing stage, you focus on getting your words onto the page with no censoring or judging.  I suggest setting a timer for ten minutes and simply keep the pen moving until the bell rings. During that writing time if you run out of ideas, repeat your last word or phrase until something new emerges; it always does. Let yourself enjoy the process, without setting expectations. Let this be the worst writing in the world!

If you’ve been receiving my insight posts for a while, you’ve probably read something I’ve written on the topic of generating Fresh Writing. If not, you can check them out here.

How do you know your work is ready for revision?  Wise editors have suggested that writers leave their writing alone for a week or two. Leave that fresh writing to incubate while you play with other ideas; do some thinking and brainstorming about what comes next in a longer manuscript. Make sure you have a clear idea of your audience (Who is listening) and your Purpose (Why are you writing this piece). 

As you shift into the Revision stage with a clear idea of your audience and purpose, make sure that you are open to receiving feedback. Everything is a suggestion; you have the final say. After grounding in the strengths of your writing, you can start to look for places where the storyline has a gap. Perhaps there’s a section in the writing that piques your curiosity; you want to learn more. Maybe you’re confused by what you’re reading.  A great way to provide a suggestion to another author who’s asking for editorial feedback is to begin your statement with, “If this was my piece, I would …”   

Always begin and end with “what’s do I love about these words”, since sharing words with another person is a vulnerable act.  If you are interested in learning more about editing, I am hosting two “Energizing Editing” workshops. For more details, and to register: 

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Creatively Yours,


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