Why are the first few chapters of your book great and then the yawn sets in as you continue reading through your first draft? Did two people write it?
The problem is common, happens to us all, and is something rarely if ever discussed. I believe it is because we know. We. Just. Know.
I call it Manuscript Mental Fatigue (MMF). We put so much into those first few chapters, editing as we go, and you know we do, then we make it past perhaps chapter ten and it’s over. We just write. It’s not that our ideas are but we just aren’t executing them the way we did earlier. A rule given at every turn about something not to do it, but we spent all of that time on those first few chapters. Instead of letting the words flow, we edited and tried to make those first chapters excellent when it was only a first draft. Why?
If you are like me, then you might say to yourself, “I know once I am finished writing this I am going to hate going back and just doing it all over again, so I am going to make it perfect the first time through.”
We hate going back through it because we put so much effort into the first draft in polishing as we wrote it the first time.
Every time we go through a draft of the book we keep getting tired a few chapters in, and once again, we have poorly executed chapters as the book goes on and in truth, they need executed properly in the burn barrel in the backyard.
How To Avoid MMF.
The First Draft
First, don’t write when you are brain tired. When you feel the brain beginning to tire—STOP. Go ahead and stop. Nothing good will come from forcing water out of a dry sponge.
While resting do nothing regarding your novel other than simply jotting down an idea that comes to mind and make sure to reference when you came up with the idea, why, and where it should go in the book. If you don’t reference and have written a three-word idea, you’ll be lost.
We have finished our first draft!
The Walk Away
Now we need to walk away and:
- Begin our next novel.
- Work on the second draft of a novel.
- Beta Read for an author friend.
- Do anything that will get our minds off that first draft. You need to give the brain and the story a rest, a time to refresh and see each other anew. I personally love doing research for books.
Time goes by; let’s say a couple of months. I know; I am being optimistic with saying two months, some people say three months to a year. (I also know I have used two semicolons together in as many sentences.) Then there is the optimism we will stay away from our work for even two months.
I have run across things I wrote years ago and had no idea it was I that wrote them. They just didn’t sound like me, but were! That’s what you want to achieve. Put your all in other things and put that book out of your mind.
- Set some type of alarm, maybe on the computer or in the cell phone that goes off on the date to start the next draft.
- Don’t have it marked on a calendar somewhere that will remind you of it.
The Return Part I
Now we are back to the second draft. We are reading it and making notes along the way, not corrections, just notes. If we make corrections now, we will become brain mush. Just read and take notes.
If we began corrections, we will begin to tire out during those first chapters, just as we would if we did editing as we wrote the first draft.
The Return Part II
Divide the book into three parts. Beginning, middle, and end. We will first work on the beginning, making updates/changes to the story according to notes.
Take a break of a few days to a week. Rest that brain.
Continue the same process through the middle and end parts of the book.
Walk away from the book and work on something else. No, we don’t have to be away forever, but we do want a bit of fresh eyes.
The Return Part III
Now it is time to read the book with the changes in place. We can do a few things at this time.
- Take notes of problem areas.
- Highlight problem areas.
- Print the draft and mark problem areas.
The Third Draft
Work on the problem areas.
Use Word, or something like Grammarly to check grammar, spellings, word usage, and passive sentence structure, if passive sentences are something to be avoided which they normally are.
This is the time to become happy with the manuscript, happy enough for others to read it. We need to make a decision at this point to either have the manuscript edited or sent to beta-readers. There are different thoughts on which to do first, the editor or the beta-readers.
Some believe not to let beta-readers see the manuscript until it is as close to publishable as possible, with minor changes to take place at their suggestion.
I do see the merit of beta-reader last idea. If you have several beta-readers giving feedback then make the changes, send to the editor, and then publish, there may be changes made the beta-readers might like or dislike that would affect a review or recommendation.
Give it up to the reader fairies of the world.
Rinse and Repeat for the next project, that book you were working on while this one was at rest back up there after that first draft.
If you have ideas of how to avoid MMF, leave them in the comments below for others to learn from your wisdom. Appreciation in advance to anyone who comments below.