Example of Self-Editing That First Draft

We talk a lot about editing, but in truth what does editing that first draft look like? How does one go about doing it? Well, instead of just talking about it, let’s take a look at a small piece of a work in progress.

Here is an example from a short story I’ve written. I’m going to use a few paragraphs from it as it is rather lengthy for this what we need at the moment.

Example

“Are you going to be using the truck today?” Maggie wiped the plate with the dish towel she used to dry the dishes as she washed them. She looked through the screen door to her husband who sat on the steps of the porch where he went every morning after breakfast before getting up and heading out to the fields.

Bart was slow in answering as he knew the purpose behind the question. It was the same question she asked most mornings, and he was ready to give her the same response.


Did you read over the piece? I have not edited it all. It needs a lot of work. But that is alright. It’s supposed to be that way. It's the first draft

Paragraph 1

“Are you going to be using the truck today?” Maggie wiped the plate with the dish towel she used to dry the dishes as she washed them. She looked through the screen door to her husband who sat on the steps of the porch where he went every morning after breakfast before getting up and heading out to the fields.


Dialogue and Emotion

Let’s look at the paragraph as a whole. When you start to read it, how does it feel to you? Does having dialogue open up the story work for this one? By my questioning this, I’m not saying it doesn’t belong. Always ask yourself this. For now, I feel this is okay.

Now ask yourself if anything feels like it is missing. Is there something physically or emotionally missing in the description here? Should I add some more physical action here? Does there need to be emotion here? Personally don’t see that it does, but if an editor did feel that way and I disagreed, we’d have to talk so I could understand where they were coming from. I could be missing something as I look at it.


Sentence Flow

Do the sentences flow right? There might be an issue there. Look at this sentence:

Maggie wiped the plate with the dish towel she used to dry the dishes as she washed them.

Truth is, I’m not sure if this is as good as it can get with this sentence. It’s time to play with rewriting it to see how it goes. If you are editing this for someone else, you can point out to them to see if they can word it better. As for the one rewording, here are some ideas on it can be rewritten.

Maggie wiped the plate dry with the dish towel.

This sentence removes a redundant phrase.

She picked up the dish towel to dry the plate.

The first one only sounds better because it introduces the character’s name. Let’s change it to “Maggie wiped the plate dry with the dish towel.” Now our paragraph reads:

“Are you going to be using the truck today?” Maggie wiped the plate dry with the dish towel. She looked through the screen door to her husband who sat on the steps of the porch where he went every morning after breakfast before getting up and heading out to the fields.

The first part is much tighter now. Let’s move onto the next sentence.


2nd Sentence

She looked through the screen door to her husband who sat on the steps of the porch where he went every morning after breakfast before getting up and heading out to the fields.

Now that I read this several weeks later I see how wordy it is. Wow! I think we can do a lot with this to make it better. There are possible deletions and divorces. It’s time to play.

She looked out onto the porch through the screen door. There sat her husband on the steps as he did every morning after they ate breakfast. He’d breathe in the air and soak in the early morning sun before heading out to the fields.

That sounds better. It could use some more work, but I’m just doing the first look over of the first draft so I know I’ll find it again later and work on it. Let’s see what the new paragraph looks like.

“Are you going to be using the truck today?” Maggie wiped the plate dry with the dish towel. She looked out onto the porch through the screen door. There sat her husband on the steps as he did every morning after they ate breakfast. He’d breathe in the air and soak in the early morning sun before heading out to the fields.

Not too bad. Since this is the first round of editing, I’ll continue on and revisit it later to see if I see any issues. Now onto the next paragraph.


2nd Paragraph

Bart was slow in answering as he knew the purpose behind the question. It was the same question she asked most mornings, and he was ready to give her the same response.


I read this again and really feel comfortable with it. There are ways to reword it, but this feels right. I’ll leave it and see what the editor thinks.

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Self-Editing

This is a small example of what self-editing can be. It is a review of your own work to get it refined before the editor sees it. This is very important for every author to do. It helps to improve your writing which we all want to do.

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2 comments

parrster profile image

parrster 12 months ago from Oz

I'm a self-editing junkie. I'm still self editing books and articles I wrote twenty years ago. Good article.


RGraf profile image

RGraf 12 months ago from Wisconsin Author

Thank you. I have had many authors tell me that they don't do this and it is the editor's job. ? Crazy.

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