I used to approach novel writing quite differently than I do now.
I would spend a lot of time on my first draft, making sure the story made sense, that everything fit together perfectly, that there were no inconsistencies with the character motivations, and so on.
It took me years to write each book.
All that stuff is still important. However, without realizing it, I was combining creating with editing. The balance was off.
Now: Writing Your Garbage Draft
This draft is about getting the story down.
I’ve covered how I approach writing a first draft–what I’ve learned to call a “garbage draft,” in this post. The garbage draft is all about getting the story down. If there are inconsistencies or characters do things that don’t make sense, that’s fine. After all, this draft is meant to be garbage! Currently, I can get a garbage draft of a 70,000 to 80,000-word novel done in about two months.
When it’s finished, that draft is a mess! But it’s a mess I can work with.
Now: Writing Your Second Draft
This draft is about getting the story right.
For me, the second draft is the toughest. That’s all right. That’s what writing your second draft should be. This is where I ensure that the story makes sense. I fix inconsistencies with the characters, plot, timeline, and setting. I also do my best to bring out the best in the story by enhancing what works and cutting what doesn’t.
I’m finding that this draft takes about as long to get through as the garbage draft. I have my series bible open as I go, not only so that I can double-check information, but so I can add to it. For example, I add to the timeline as I go, ensuring that I know when and in what order events take place.
While this draft is hard, it’s also fun. This book takes place in San Francisco in the 1870s, so it’s fair to say this process is like digging for gold.
It’s also tiring, hence the title of this post, “The Second Draft Blues.”
Now: Writing Your Third Draft
I expect that my third draft of Bodacious Creed and the Jade Lake will involve additional story fixes, though they should be much easier. I’ll also begin to focus on polishing the prose. This draft should take half the time, or less, than the last draft.
Then, I’ll get the book to a few alpha readers. How I proceed with the fourth draft will depend on their comments and if I agree with them. Chances are, they’ll bring up things I missed that I need to improve upon, and they’ll have some ideas that I’ll respect, but not agree with.
If you’re also a writer, I hope this helps you get through writing your second draft!
Halloween on COVID
How was your Halloween this year? In a normal year, my son and I would have gone to Disneyland for a few hours. He would have worn a costume, we would have had some icecream, gone on the Haunted Mansion a couple of times, and probably trekked through Galaxy’s Edge. Instead, we stayed home. The Magic Kingdom is still closed though, as it should be until we get some kind of control over COVID-19.
I hope the rest of you had a fantastically frightening Halloween! Feel free to tell me about it in the comments.
It’s Time for NaNoWriMo
Are you participating in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) this year? Every November, thousands of people will write their own garbage draft of a 50,000 novel. It’s a personal challenge. Can you write a 50,000-word story in a month?
I’m not participating in it this year, since I’m in the middle of intense edits, but I’ll keep an eye on how others progress and draw inspiration to push forward on my own work.
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Stories may well be lies, but they are good lies that say true things, and which can sometimes pay the rent. ~ Neil Gaiman