Posted by: Casey Lybrand | August 9, 2010

Where to go from here? Thoughts on 1000 Words a Day and First Draft Editing

I will wrap up my month of writing 1,000 words a day in Layla Messner’s writing challenge at the end of this week. I am also looking toward editing the first draft of my MS. Editing a work of this length and editing with an eye to publication — both of these are new prospects for me. I’ve been trying to figure out how to proceed.

Wheel Maze SquaredCircle

Wheel Maze SquaredCircle by Peter E. Lee, on Flickr

I love reading blogs written by writers at various stages of the writing, editing, and getting published process, especially Here Be Dragons, Bowl of Oranges, Layla Messner, Cassandra Jade, and Tales of the Pack. Reading these blogs helps me wrap my mind around how to move forward now that it is time to edit. I get a lot out of reading about other writers’ processes: it’s motivating, inspiring, and often instructional. We also help each other by linking to even more information about writing.

Recently, Allison Moon at Tales of the Pack posted a very interesting piece about editing in which she linked to this guest post by Alex Sokoloff at The Blood-Red Pencil: Top Ten Things I Know About Editing. Check out this item from the list:

5. Whatever your genre is, do a dedicated pass focusing on that crucial genre element.

What an excellent idea! Thank you again for linking to this, Allison! The Top Ten list contains some things I’ve heard before (read the entire MS aloud), but also many things I would not have thought of, like item 5 up there. (Though doesn’t it seem obvious now?)

I’m a ways away from needing to do a genre pass-through. I worked a bit just on the order of the scenes and chapters right after I finished the first draft, but I know that when I go back to the MS, there will be a big, messy, structurally-unsound pile of first draftiness waiting for me. Luckily, the Top Ten article addresses structural issues as well. [1] I’m going to take a break to get some distance from the MS, then get down to it.

Writing and Editing Goals: August into September


  • Finish up the 1,000 words a day for a month challenge. Concludes August 13.

  • Take the rest of August off from writing. [2]


  • Writing: 300 words or more each day, five days out of the week. Why? One thousand is a stretch for me to write each and every day. It has been a beautiful experience (it’s something I’ve done before, as well), but it is not something I want to try to do while also editing my first draft. I do, however, feel it is important to keep up daily writing. Three hundred words is very doable — a nice, easy goal that will not wear me out to the point that I can’t also face editing. If one month of 300 words a day/5-days-a-week goes well, I’ll see about increasing the daily word count goal. Often if I can make it to 300, I can keep going to 500 or even 1,000 pretty easily; this goal is about giving myself permission to stop at 300 so I can save my writing energy for revising. If my revising work for the day includes entirely re-writing a scene, I will most definitely apply that re-writing toward my daily word count.

  • Editing: One hour or more each day, five days out of the week. If this doesn’t seem like enough work on the MS, I’ll see about increasing this goal as well. Let’s start out slow, and see where it goes.

Did you notice? I’m taking weekends off in September. Perhaps not strictly on the weekend (if Saturday happens to be really good for writing when, say, Thursday isn’t, that’s fine, too). I need breaks in order to keep going, and I miss reading. I have read almost no fiction this past month, and that needs to change. Five days instead of seven will help me achieve a better balance.

How about you? What online resources have you found especially helpful moving into the first-draft-editing stage?

Notes of a footish variety:

1: I need to say a bit more about the awesomeness of the Top Ten Things I Know About Editing article: I was reading along, and I got to item 10. It’s about structure and story elements. This bit of text sat right at the bottom of my screen when I read it:

I’ve compiled a checklist of story elements that I use both when I’m brainstorming a story on index cards, and again when I’m starting to revise. I find it invaluable to go through my first draft and make sure I’m hitting all of these points.

And I thought, oh how nice. She has her very own film-inspired story elements checklist in her files. I should try creating one of those.

I scrolled down, expecting to see the timestamp and comments at the end of the post. That is not what I saw. Guess what was there instead? STORY ELEMENTS CHECKLIST! Page after page of it!

I possibly made some squeaky noises, and I definitely marveled at the wonders of the internet and the generosity of the article’s author in sharing this knowledge. So much awesome.

2: Yes, taking this much of a break from writing is a goal. I’m going to try to keep the writing really minimal. We’ll see how it goes. Super-secret footnotes-only tidbit: I re-wrote a scene from the MS this weekend. I know, I know! Distance.


  1. Thanks for that link about the top 10 things about editing. Very useful.

    I think you’re doing really well, I tell you one thing you’re already ahead in the sense that you appear very organised in your plans. I was totally chaotic and emotional and didn’t plan squat :-)

    No wonder I am going mad, getting there slowly and thank you for mentioning my blog.

  2. Don’t let the revision process wear you down. Keep smiling because there is a reward at the end of each trip through that you will recognize on the subsequent journey through the pages of your creation. You will see how much better it is. Likely you will see a whole set of different issues to deal with. It’s all good! Keep smiling as you hone your craft and perfect your masterpiece! (On my iPhone and it won’t let me scroll up to check for errors. If this is a mess, it shows the value of revision!)

  3. Oh those are great goals Casey- you’ve been so good with keeping up those 1000 words a day, I have no doubts that you’ll reach your goals for September as well.
    Like you, I love reading the blogs of aspiring authors. I think I even like it more than reading published author’s blogs for I get to see how they’re coping with the common struggles, I learn with / from them and we share our experiences :) Make the whole journey a lot more fun!

  4. Alannah, I know myself. If I don’t have goals, it doesn’t get done. (Before the blog and the 1000 words a day challenge, I had goals, too; it’s just that I kept them on my computer instead of being public about them.)

    I have a pretty good idea of what my schedule should look like, and now I’m trying to figure out what tasks go into revising. That’s why things like the Top Ten List are helpful. It focuses my thinking. I have all this great knowledge I’ve gained from reading blogs (and books!) about working on novels. I need a bit of a clue to figuring out what to do with all that knowledge.

    Glad you like the editing Top Ten list, and you know I love your blog! You’ll get there with your MS. I think there is no easy way. I believe in you. :)

    Carol Ann, your message seems fine! (I’m pretty committed to overlooking other people’s typos on the internet in any case, but my own typos? That’s another matter, so I can relate! It’s so cool that you comment on your phone!)

    Thank you for your encouragement! I’m not really feeling down about the revision process at all. :) It’s just that it’s new — at least on this scale (novel-length) and with this goal (getting published) — so I’m trying to figure out what to do, so I can do it. This is a very happy and exhilarating process for me!

    I enjoy mazes and puzzles. I feel excited and motivated to figure out the (or a) solution. I’m eager to see what new challenges await! Thank you for the smiles! :)

    Lua, thank you! I do love all the writing, but I know I need to scale back if I have a hope of editing. :)

    Aspiring author blogs rock so hard! I love published author blogs as well, especially debut authors, though I find myself mostly going to pre-published authors’ blogs recently (there are exceptions, like Cassandra). There is nothing like peer support. We’re all in this together!

  5. I agree totally. I just love the friends I’ve found. You might like my blog as well.

    If you’re interested, you can read ch 1 of my YA fantasy novel, ‘Lethal Inheritance’ there
    I’d love to know what you think of it.

  6. Hi Tahlia, Thanks for stopping by! I like your title, and I’ll try to check out your chapter. Best of luck with your novel!

  7. A thousand a day for a whole month takes a lot of discipline, I’m impressed!

  8. First, thanks for the mention, I enjoy your blog as well and my answer to “helpful online resources” is this post. I am going to use this to inspire me when I put together my next week of goals. I completely agree that taking a break is a goal, and I want to read more too. I think after the challenge I’ll go back to 5 days/week as well. I love the 300 words idea too – I loved writing every day, but 1K was too much with the editing.

  9. Thanks, Cities of the Mind! Thought I wouldn’t make it to 1k today when my afternoon got interesting (nothing too bad, just unexpectedly busy), but I waited to get back onto the internet until I was done!

    Layla. That is such a wonderful thing to say. Thank you so much. I am happy to link to your blog! You have given me so much inspiration as well!

    I think 5 days, 300 words/day will work out great!

  10. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Casey Lybrand, Layla Messner. Layla Messner said: Great blog post by @caseylybrand. Where to go from here? Thoughts on 1000 Words a Day and First Draft Editing: […]

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