6 First Draft Revision Steps

After you have completed the first draft of your novel, it is time to begin revising and rewriting. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? But what does this actually mean, what steps do you need to take?

PostIt Note RevisionWhen I finished the first draft of my novel, I completed my initial revision using Post-it notes – redecorating my office wall as I went! This is not the only method of revising, but it worked for me. It allowed me to see my whole story at once. I was able to move bits of plot, etc. around if I found I had misplaced something, or in order to add in another point or piece of information. And I could colour code various story elements. I discussed other possible methods in my previous post Tracking Your Characters.


6 Steps to the First Resivion of Your Draft Manuscript:

  1. Re-read the whole manuscript to familiarise yourself again with the whole of the story. Jot down all the plot points as you read. DO NOT edit as you go – resist that urge for now.
  2. Arrange your plot in chronological order. Your novel may be written in chronological order already, so this could be an easy task for you. My novel has two narrative threads – that of the protagonist, Annabella, and another of her grandmother, Adela. Annabella’s story is chronological and written in present tense. Adela’s story begins in the past and works toward the present. These narrative threads weave together to form the main plot of my novel. It was easy therefore, to lose threads of this narrative. Ordering the plot in a chronological fashion, will allow you to see any gaps in your story line and to rectify any errors or inconsistencies.
  3. Re-read the whole manuscript again. Jot down all the subplot points and the backstory. Let’s face it, you don’t want to give your reader too much too soon and you want to build interest and complexity into your novel, so chances are you have withheld some information, you reveal things through carefully placed backstory, and you leave clues through subplots. It is frighteningly easy to miss something altogether or make things far too simplistic by stating the obvious. Adding your subplot and backstory, also in chronological order, will help you identify discrepancies. You can read more about these points in my previous post What are Plot, Subplot & Backstory?
  4. Take note of the main characters. List points chronologically along their individual journeys. It is important that your main character evolves throughout your novel. Writing a character timeline of sorts will help you trace this development ensuring your character is rounded, full, 3-dimensional – definitely not flat and boring.
  5. Now is the time to resolve any gaps, errors, discrepancies or confusion. Note down what needs to fill the gaps, how you can rectify the mistakes, or answers to outstanding questions. Add these into your work above at the relevant junctions, then review the whole thing.
  6. Now the rewriting can begin – taking in all the changes you have made.


How does this differ from how you work? What methods of first revision to you use?

Keep an eye out for my upcoming posts about rewriting, proofreading and editing.



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