For me, stepping away from the story after finishing a first draft is one of the most important parts of rewriting. The story has to be cold enough for me to see the big picture. That usually means at least two weeks, ideally a month.
I started to read my work ten days after I finished the rough draft. My experience has taught me to read the entire manuscript over a few consecutive days. Unfortunately I had a couple of major interruptions. One was the arrival of 750 bulbs that needed to get into the ground now. (Did I tell you I love gardening?)
One of my rules that I try to follow is to not start tinkering with the work at this stage. I think it’s dangerous because you will lose sight of the big picture which is what this stage is about. Occasionally I will fill in a missing word, but other than that I keep my note-taking in my notebook. Wonderful things will happen at this stage if I don’t judge myself harshly. That’s why some people call this the discovery draft. I think I will start adopting that as my reference to my first draft.
Reading a discovery draft can be painful if we get into a negative mindset, but this is where we should be childlike and in awe of the possibilities of our story.
Here are some of the possibilities that can happen when reading a discovery draft:
Holes can be identified. Big gaping holes where we need to add a part of a subplot or a character flaw or running thread (the note box indicates a thread above). When I happen upon the holes, I’m not discouraged because I realize I’m finding my way.
Finding a place for humor. We all love to laugh, and if a serious story has some humorous moments that can be a beautiful thing, even if they are small moments
Realizing something that was going to be important isn’t or vice-versa—realizing something should become more important.
Another scene forms in our minds that strengthens the one we’re reading
The ending becomes more clear
The theme becomes more evident
And much more
You can’t rewrite without rereading your draft. If you approach your first read as an exploration on a path to the heart of the story, finding possibilities for a stronger draft can be abundant. Then you do it again. And again.