5 Tips for Your First Draft Reread
Updated: Apr 20
Your first reread of your draft is the very first step on your revision journey.
Hopefully you’ve already put your draft away and let it rest for a while, and you’re returning to your book with fresh eyes.
Rereading your book for the first time again seems easy—you just read it, right? That’s simple enough. And it is! But there are a handful of pitfalls you could get trapped in, and I don’t want you to get stuck right out of the gate!
So in this post, we’re exploring some tips for rereading your draft for the first time and how to make it a positive and successful start to your revisions. Let’s go!
Tip 1: Read the whole book without stopping to make changes.
This is the first major pitfall for authors rereading their first drafts. Chances are, you’re going to find stuff right away that you feel like changing. You’ll be tempted to stop your reread over and over as you find more and more things to change.
What’s wrong with that? Well, it breaks up your momentum, which can…
make revisions go slower (as you frequently task switch between mental modes)…
knock you out of the reader’s perspective (readers don’t stop to revise)…
lead to lots of backtracking and undoing (when you find stuff later in the book that affects the changes you made earlier in the book).
Which leads nicely into the next tip:
Tip 2: Take notes while you’re reading.
Rather than stopping to fix anything you find that could use fixing, take notes instead.
You can do this in a notebook, in a separate document, or even by commenting on the draft itself. (Though at this stage, I do recommend a separate document or notebook because it makes it easier to reference your notes quickly.)
Everything is fair game at this point, from typos to plot holes. Anything you find that needs changing deserves a note.
One of the benefits of taking notes, besides making your reread go faster and smoother, is that it can really get your brain working on story problems. A note you make about Chapter 57 could make you realize how to fix that problem you found in Chapter 3. Seeing all your notes listed so close together helps your brain make associations, which in turn makes revisions easier for you. A win all the way around!
Then, once you have a whole novel’s worth of notes, you’ll want to organize them for easy reference and the most efficient revision process. More info on that in this blog post.
Tip 3: Be kind to yourself.
The first reread can bring up a lot of feelings, both positive and negative.
As you’re reading along, you may think, “Hey, I did a lot of good writing here! This draft is a lot better than I thought it was!”
Or you could be thinking the exact opposite: “How could I have ever thought this was good? This thing is a mess! Is it even worth trying to revise?”
It’s not unusual to find yourself doubting your writing skills, second-guessing your entire story, or feeling overwhelmed at all the work ahead of you at this stage of the process. That’s normal! You might find it helpful to remind yourself of the reasons you wrote this story in the first place. It may also help to take a little break from revisions again.
Remember that no first draft is perfect on the first go, even from your favorite authors. Just because your first draft is a bit of a mess doesn’t mean your story as a whole will be a mess once you’re done with it.
You’ve got this!
Tip 4: Create your revision plan.
The main point of the first reread is to help you see what needs work in the novel so that you can set forth and fix it in the way that is most efficient and makes the most sense to you.
Even if you’re not a plotter for your first draft, any author can benefit from a revision plan. What’s a revision plan? It’s just you mapping out the order in which you’re going to tackle all the notes you made while reading.
I generally advise you start with the biggest changes (like fixing plot holes or character arcs) first and work your way down to the smallest changes (like grammar and punctuation) last. (That’s what my draft-by-draft revision guide is—basically a done-for-you revision plan. You can download it here!)
But you may find that this style of revision plan doesn’t work for you. Maybe you feel the need to go chronologically, fixing everything in the first chapter before you start fixing the next chapter and so on. So create a revision plan that works for your revision style, whatever that may be!
Tip 5: Enjoy the process.
This is probably the freshest you’ll ever see your book again, at least for a very, very long time. Sure, throughout the revision process, you’ll take other, shorter breaks from your book. But right now, as you take this first step into revision—this is your biggest chance to see your book with new eyes.
It’s also your last chance to see your book truly through your own eyes, without outside feedback or reader opinions.
Weeks or months from now, when you’re working on the sixth draft and you’re sick of this book and just want it published already, you’re going to look back on this first reread with fondness. (You really will!)
So take your time. Enjoy it. Revel in your book’s potential even as you plan to demolish and rebuild it from the ground up. Laugh at the silly mistakes you made and pat yourself on the back for those really awesome lines you wrote. It may still need a lot of work, but you wrote this! Be as proud of it as you can, even in its current imperfection.
I hope this post has helped you with your first draft reread! And in case you missed it earlier, here’s another link to the free draft-by-draft revision guide, designed to help you all the way through the revision process.
(Cover photo by Flipsnack.)