The process of writing a first draft often seems universally the same. So often, its merely a case of spewing what comes into your mind, just writing.
The second draft is supposed to be where it all comes together, when you proofread- make everything look neat and pretty.
The moment I typed the first word of my manuscript, I realised this wasn’t going to be the case. My second-draft is swiftly turning into a second first-draft. Its almost sufficiently disparate to be a whole new story. And its longer than my original story. That was a novella. This is something closer to a novel.
Maybe some of you are thinking that’s totally fine. Maybe other’s are thinking I’m crazy and I’m probably never going to successfully write a thing in my life. And that just goes to show how different all our writing methods can be.
I suppose the way you write your second draft depends on the way you write your first. Are you a plotter or a pantser? If you’re the latter, then your first draft can often end up being something more like an outline. Not an overly-ambitious, bare-bone outline, something that can burn any pantser’s creativity dry, but something to build upon- and stray away from- completely.
I wrote my first draft in just over a week. I’m still into a month on my second. Perhaps you think that’s wrong. Perhaps you don’t.
But there’s one thing I’ve learnt: writing a second draft can so often be harder than writing a first.
Some tips I’ve picked up along the way? Experience might be a harsh teacher, but I’ve often felt it’s the best. You never really understand what it is to write a second draft until you start doing. Here are three things which its worth reminding yourself when you go through your second draft, though, or even your twentieth:
- Stay true to your characters
This is what makes your second draft a second draft of the first, not a new book. For me, my characters are the reason why I write. Sometimes I think they’re too difficult, perhaps I should change them, tinker with them. But I don’t. Because I love them, and you don’t change what you love. If you don’t love your characters, maybe you shouldn’t be writing that book.
- Fix the plot-holes
Don’t worry if your story ends up going in a completely different direction. Don’t worry if it sometimes feels like an unmanageable mess. Chances are your first draft will be riddled with holes, small or large. And if you have to take a detour to go and buy the cement to fill it up-- well, then, so be it.
- Cull, but don’t murder
Have you ever heard the phrase ‘kill your darlings’? Well, I suppose in a way that’s what this tip is all about. I had a hard time getting rid of an awful lot of very authentic-sounding purple prose from my fiction, until I put it on CC. I think that’s probably one of the most effective things about critiques, it provides the push you need to get rid of those beloved demons you know are monstrous, but you can’t bring yourself to remove.
But, sometimes, people take this too far. Kill your darlings, but don’t kill your voice. Every story has a voice, a voice which should be subtle, barely noticeable (which is why you have to go about on your murder spree in the first place) but still there. Don’t go so far that you get rid of it.
These rules aren’t absolutely set in stone. Depending on what you already have, you might not need them. If you’re already at the spelling and punctuation stage, say, I can only offer my congratulations. But for most of us, writing a second draft can be the biggest hurdle yet.