Whether you’re a veteran author or new to the writing game, getting to the end of that first draft is a major accomplishment. You’ve spent weeks, months, maybe even years toiling away in a caffeine fueled ocean of excitement, self-doubt, and determination to get a finished manuscript. But you did it! You have a completed, (possibly disorganized) first draft. Now is the time to break out the champagne and celebrate, because in the coming weeks, you’ll learn just how much more work lies ahead.
This is a follow up to the post: How Did You Write a Book?
How I Write a Second Draft
Before I Begin the Rewrites
“Put your work in a drawer and walk away.” You may have heard this tip before, but I’ve come to realize that setting your work aside for a while is VERY important. It’s always hard for me to do this, but I know that taking a step back from it, even for a couple of weeks, will give me some perspective on the story. Plus, it’s a good time to recharge my writing muscles. I read books, watch movies that inspire me and do some research if needed.
The first read through – This is the part I dislike the most. It’s the part where I realize just how much work I still have to do. After I’ve had a little time away from my manuscript, the first read through can either surprise me or horrify me. I might love a chapter so much that if feels like I didn’t write it at all, and then others might make me cringe so bad that I wonder what the hell I was thinking. I’m sure this happens to a lot of authors, so I’m just gonna go ahead and assume I’m not alone here.
The mantra “Let it Go” – I prepare myself ahead of time to let things go. Nothing is written in stone at this stage and everything is subject to deletion. As a rule, I never write the last few chapters of a novel in a first draft for two reasons: 1. Even though I know how the story will end, I feel like ending it in the first draft is bad luck, and 2. I don’t want to have to cut and ending this early on. By not writing the ending, I am totally open to changing it if need be.
Once my manuscript is all marked with red pen and looks like a crime scene, it’s time to start writing. At this point I know what I like and dislike about the story, and I have a good idea what needs to be cut, what needs more work and what needs to be added to round out the book.
Full rewrite – I’m not a fan of copy and paste and once I write a draft, I don’t continue working in the original document (*note – I write each chapter as a separate document). Instead I print off the pages and start a new folder called “2nd draft”. From this point I rearrange the printed chapters into a new order and begin the long process of typing. But this isn’t simply a copy job; this is an elaboration on the existing work. Sometimes I keep many paragraphs without adding much, other times I start from scratch, knowing exactly what’s going to happen in the scene. My favorite part of revisions is the completely new chapters I get to add. These are fun because I know the story well enough to create the chapter with subtle plot hints, more character development, and maybe even some new challenges for the characters. Ever wonder how an author makes so many things connect throughout a book? How they added so many hints? This happens in the rewrites.
For me, the second draft manuscript is still in the development stages. That’s important to remember. I am still “writing” the book, not editing. It is NOT finished yet.
Once I’ve rewritten the entire book to the point that most of it makes sense and most of the plot holes are closed up, I write the last chapters. At this stage I should feel confident enough to let someone else read it. But I also keep in mind that I may still need to cut and rewrite once fresh eyes have been on it. The purpose of a second draft (for me, anyway) is not to have a final product, but to make it readable to others.
Beta-readers and the Developmental Edit
This is the scary part. Other people are going to be reading your work. Some writers use beta-readers (other writers or friends who give feedback on your work) or they can also use a professional developmental editor (usually a published author, agent, or someone working in the publishing industry.)
For my sequel, Julie Hutchings will be doing my developmental edit. I will send the manuscript to her and wait. While this can be an anxious time for a writer, I try to use it as a break. I go back to reading or start writing something unrelated to my series. Once I get notes back from the developmental edit I will read through them, consider them carefully, make notes and then, after taking some time to think, I will rewrite for the last time, hopefully.
I hope this helps anyone stuck on a 2nd draft. Just keep in mind that it’s not over yet, but you’re so close you can’t give up now! You have all the pieces to the puzzle; you just have to keep rearranging them until they create a beautiful picture.
Stay tuned for a 3rd draft post, which will include details on the copy-editing stage.