Rough First Drafts and Rigorous Revision with Sara Grant

I first met Sara Grant at her workshop on editing (a workshop I highly recommend) when, of course, I asked if she would be willing to provide a post for this blog. Being the lovely lady she is, she said yes. So here in a nutshell is her wisdom on the editing process.

Rough First Drafts and Rigorous Revision

You’ve finished the first draft of your novel. Stop. Celebrate. Take a much needed break. Once you are refreshed…

Roll up your sleeves and get back to work.

In my experience, until you have a rough draft you can’t fully appreciate what your story is about, who your characters are, and how the drama should unfold. Give yourself permission to write a really rubbish and experimental first draft. Don’t worry about making it perfect – just write down your story.

Now that you have this raw material, it’s time to analyse your manuscript. Look at the big picture first. Don’t start line editing until you’re pleased with the plot, sub-plots, character arcs, point of view, pace, etc. Many writers proofread their manuscripts and call this revision. Don’t waste time polishing sections of writing until you are positive that they are integral to your story. The more time you tinker with a paragraph or page the less likely you will be to cut it when you realize it doesn’t serve your story.

Sara Grant Half Lives Revison 1

I’ve developed a revision process that helps me dissect and re-build my manuscript. First I study the overall plot and subplots. Sometimes I make a graph or chart to look at the plot points and pace of my story. Then I review the novel character by character. Once I have the story and characters right, I review and edit my novel chapter by chapter, scene by scene, paragraph by paragraph, sentence by sentence and finally word by word.

Then it’s time to get feedback. Before I had an agent, I sent my revised draft to my critique group. When writers review their own work, they read the story they think they wrote – not the actual words on the page. Writers need editors – not friends or family, but other writers they respect and trust – to help them see the faults in their manuscripts. Once you have this feedback, the revision process starts again.

This type of intense revision takes time, but it’s worth it. A first draft is the first step on your path to publication. So many really amazing writers never make it that far. But don’t rush your revision. Don’t send your manuscript to agents and editors until you are satisfied that your manuscript is the best it can be. I’ve found the key to revision is patience – with myself and with my story.

Best of luck on your revision!

About the Author

Sara grant author photo 2

Sara Grant helped create twelve different series and edited nearly 100 books as a senior commissioning editor for Working Partners. She writes books for both children and teens. Dark Parties, her first young adult novel, won the SCBWI Crystal Kite Award for Europe. Her next novel for teens Half Lives is an apocalyptic thriller and was published in May. She also writes – Magic Trix – a fun, magical series for younger readers. She earned a master’s degree in creative and life writing at Goldsmiths College. She and her agent Jenny Savill will offer a revision workshop on 2nd November 2013. For more details, visit

19 thoughts on “Rough First Drafts and Rigorous Revision with Sara Grant

  1. Great advice! 🙂 Beth

  2. Reblogged this on Author Susan Mac Nicol and commented:
    A very informative post on *groans* edits and revisions. I know, I know. They are great opportunities to make something even better. But such bloody hard work.

  3. Cindy D says:

    Reblogged this on Cindy D and commented:
    Sara Grant says it so well.

  4. […] Rough First Drafts and Rigorous Revision with Sara Grant. Thanks, Sara Grant, I needed that! […]

  5. darsword says:

    Thanks I needed that! Reblogged so my writer friends can see it, too!

  6. Sara Grant says:

    It is hard work but so rewarding. Good luck with all your revisions!

  7. Great advice at just the right time… I’m working on my first novel. THANKS!

  8. […] Rough First Drafts and Rigorous Revision with Sara Grant ( […]

  9. […] Hartley and Sara Grant have already offered some excellent advice on writing for comic effect and knocking your first draft into shape. Here’s what Bryony Pearce has to say about the careful use of adjectives and […]

  10. raodum says:

    This is awesome advice! Thank you so much! I am publishing my first novel in January and I discovered a revision process that works for me. I write a basic outline and then just write! Then I read through my manuscript and write down the key points within the chapter. This helps me figure out what to keep, what to change and what to leave alone. It takes about three weeks to do this but it really really helps me! Again, thanks for this post!

  11. […] met Kate Pankhurst in York a month or so ago, when we both attended the second of Sara Grant’s wonderful workshops on editing. We got talking, and I asked if she’d like to contribute a […]

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