How to read your first draft


If you’ve worked for months on the first draft of your novel, it can be daunting to reach the end. What to do next?!

And while you might want to dive in and edit (or hit send instantly and pass it on to your editor), the truth is you need to give it a resting period before you look at it in more detail.

And once you’ve done that?

You need to read it as a reader, not as a writer. Which can be a really hard thing to do. You know what you meant to write, so chances are you skip over sentences, assuming the meaning that might or might not be there.

The best way to start fresh and read with a reader’s eyes is to use a visual disruption. If you read the piece on the same computer you wrote it on, it’s all too easy to jump back into writer mode, and then you lose that perspective you so desperately need.

How to visually disrupt your manuscript as you read your first draft

There are a number of ways you can do this:

  • print it out. Not always the most environmentally or cost-friendly, but some people swear by it.
  • use the Read Aloud function in Word or Text-to-Speech in Google.  This can be a great way for you if you have time to listen to your manuscript in large chunks.
  • change font or text color of your document. I personally find that I still read this as a writer, as it’s not disruptive enough.
  • send your document to an e-reader.  This is my preferred option

woman reading kindle in hammock

Why I like to send the manuscript to my e-reader

Personally, I prefer to send first drafts to my Kindle. I do this not just with my own drafts, but any time I am doing a manuscript critique for another author.  For first time writers, seeing your manuscript in book form is a fantastic feeling, even if it is just your first draft! And while there is still a long way to go until you will be able to hit publish, you’ve hit an important milestone if you reached The End on your first draft. It’s worth celebrating that and visualizing the time your book will be available for download.

As an editor, I like to send all manuscripts to my Kindle. If I read the document on a computer, it’s too easy for me to stop reading and make edits.  By using my Kindle, I can read anywhere (and for me that will often be in the bath!). I like to try and read a manuscript in as short a time as is possible, so I want to be able to focus just on the reading and on the story. That means removing all other distractions that might be available on my desktop or laptop. And because I can’t make notes in the document, I’m left with the limited options of highlighting on my kindle or taking notes on a pad of paper. This works well for me because each time I stop reading to make a note I’m taking myself out of the StoryWorld. If possible, I want to stay in there while I read, and if anything within the manuscript kicks me out of the StoryWorld (bad writing, unbelievable dialogue, plot inconsistencies) then I want to be aware of them, which is harder to do if I’m choosing to move in and out by taking notes.

The technicalities – how to send your document to your e-reader

Each e-reader has slightly different rules on this, but as far as I’m aware, it’s possible on all of them. Here are the Kindle rules on how to send via email because that’s what I know and use, but if you have any other kind of e-reader, you should still be able to do this.  If you don’t have an e-reader, you can download the Kindle app on your phone and use that, although I find that I’m still distracted when I use my phone and prefer to use the actual device.


So, how do you read your first draft? Let me know in the comments! And if you haven’t tried out the e-reader trick yet, let me know if it works!


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