There is no scientific consensus on when to stop revising a first draft and how to move into a second. Stephen King mentions it in his “On Writing” (and I find I’m the same), that he’s the kind of writer who always wants to add things into his stories.
That’s probably a good place to stop your first draft and go into your second.
Here are the ideas I had for moving from a first draft to a second:
1. You’re done adding elements to your story.
The first draft is where you add things, where you add your foreshadowing, your themes between chapters, your exposition, etc. Hit your points and once you’re done, that’s it. There’s a time to stop and a time to move on. In this case, hit what you need to and move on.
2. Read it for consistency.
The truth is, a first draft is never good enough. Oh, if you’re Hemingway or something you can try to get away with it, but chances are you need to make revisions.
And every writer needs to read what he or she has written.
3. Make sure it flows.
I would make this your last chance to add anything. A good bit of advice I got early on was to add or move elements so that the story hits something important every three chapters.
4. Begin removing the unnecessary.
Clunky dialogue, exposition that feels forced, and any number of added elements can be removed to make it flow. There’s some great books on how to do this, but just know it’s important to stop adding things and start taking them away.
A good rule of thumb is to remove about 10% of the word count. For long science fiction stories (my forte) you can go from 120,000 words to 108,000-ish.
Also remember, with this, to show don’t tell. That means a ton of what you have in narrative form shouldn’t be telling your reader what to think, but leading them to think it.
You may like some of my other posts about writing:
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