Why You Should Edit Your First Draft for Captain Obvious
So, you’ve completed a first draft. Huzzah, and kudos to you! Take a bow, pat yourself on the back, do something else that indicates you’re proud of yourself.
OK, the moonwalk was a bit much. Nice moves, though.
But now, it’s revision time. Maybe you were on a hot streak at the Writing Time Casino and you’ve produced a first draft that’s almost perfect. Enjoy that moment of triumph.
Most likely, though, you’re looking at a haystack of a story and hoping there’s a needle there somewhere. There’s a good chance you don’t know where the heck to start.
My suggestion? Make your first round of revision all about vanquishing Captain Obvious. You might not always know exactly what he looks like, but you’ll know him when you see him. Here are a few examples:
Captain Obvious has a Tell
He shows up when you tell instead of show. Do you really need Captain Obvious to tell your reader that your character is sad? Probably not—you should trust your ability as a writer to convey that feeling without having to state it.
Captain Obvious Repeats Himself
On a more basic level: Have you repeated yourself? Have you done a good job of showing, but re-reading your piece, you notice that you’ve shown the reader that the narrator of the story is tired five times in the past two sentences? Get the red pen and strike through a couple of those Captains.
Captain Obvious Can’t Spell
Are there any spelling and/or grammar mistakes that are Captain Obvious? Not the nitpicky stuff for right now, but the really glaring errors (e.g., you scribbled down “your” when you meant “you’re”). Nip those in the bud.
Captain Obvious is Hard of Hearing
And finally, read what you’ve written out loud (or at least whisper it to yourself). Are there any Captain Obvious problems in the way it sounds? Do you repeat a particular word too often? Do you, say, refer to one of the characters always by their proper name and never with a he or she (or it, if you’re writing about aliens or robots), so that it reads “Jim did this”, “Jim did that”, “Jim Jim Jim, all the Jim long day”? Vanquish Captain Obvious with a few strategically placed pronouns.
If you start revising not by trying to tackle it all at once, but by first giving a few sucker punches to Captain Obvious, you may find the whole revising/editing thing in general seems much more doable.
What’s the worst “Captain Obvious” you’ve ever found while editing? Share your story in the comments.
Flip through your papers, journals, etc., and find a piece that you’ve been meaning to revise but you just didn’t know where to start.
Spend fifteen minutes revising—not making it perfect, just vanquishing Captain Obvious. Post your piece in the comments, and mention some of the Captains you vanquished in your first round of revision.