How to Start Revising That First Draft

Jun 2, 2014 | For Beginners, Novels, Picture Books

Harold Underdown
Harold is faculty for our Crash Course in Children’s Publishing and Revision Retreat workshops, so we asked him to share some advice on revising your manuscript:

The first draft of your manuscript is done! What next? Most writers know that it’s not really done, and that in fact they need to revise. But where to start? How to start?

Don’t ask yourself to do the impossible. Very few people can start revising a manuscript immediately after finishing it. So first, let it sit. Do something else for at least a few weeks. Start another manuscript, catch up on your reading, or just spend time with people close to you.

Since it’s difficult to be objective about one’s own work, seek out feedback from others, from a critique group, a beta reader, or a professional (tip: SCBWI conferences offer inexpensive and good critiques).

But there’s a lot you can do on your own, from outlining your plot to see what you ended up with, to using Darcy Pattison’s shrunken manuscript (watch our video about this) to help picture it as a whole. Or dive into the details by highlighting all adjectives in one color, all adverbs in another. Copy a piece of your manuscript into to get a picture of your “favorite” words.

Use techniques that you know work for you, and seek out new ones, in books, on the Internet, or from workshops. Figure out what works in your manuscript. And then dive back into writing, but this time you’ll be rewriting. If you can, set aside some time in which you can get well started—a weekend away from home, a day at the beach, or even a day at home with the Internet turned off. Use that block of time to get going. You’ll find it easier to continue in your usual writing time at home once you’ve made that good start.

Our Mission in Action

Share Your Story, Inspire a Child
Equity & Inclusion in Kidlit
Partners & Sponsors

The Highlights Foundation positively impacts children by amplifying the voices of storytellers who inform, educate, and inspire children to become their best selves.  Learn more about our impact.