Your Second Draft and Beyond

This post is the thirtieth in a series about writing a novel. You can check out the list of past topics at the end of this post.

Now every author approaches their second draft different. For me, this is a time to check the consistency and where I can amend the story either by trimming it, fleshing it out or developing subplots.

To do this, I cannot stop on every page to fix and worry over every word. That will come later. To begin, I need to read through the first draft without stopping to correct every flaw. Yes, I may add a missing word or fix a spelling error, but I try not to get into re-writing at this stage. I want to read it straight through first. As I read, I am making notes of areas that need work, whether it be adding something, deleting the scene or polishing. I am checking the timeline and looking for consistency in travel time or character behavior.

Now once I have read through and made my notes, my second draft isn’t done until I go back and make all those changes. For me, the second draft is about re-writing, expanding and cutting scenes. Descriptions are added to bring the story and characters to life. Scenes that don’t advance the story are deleted – even if they are well-written or your favorite. Don’t worry about cutting words. It isn’t about how long your story is. It is about writing a good, compelling story.

Sometimes you will re-work an area once or twice. And sometimes it will take many more tries until you get it right. (Ernest Hemingway admitted to rewriting the final words A Farewell to Arms, his wartime masterpiece, 39 times before he was satisfied.)

This part of editing where you take away and add to the story can be very messy, and you may need to be ruthless, but it will make your story better, stronger.

It may take many read-throughs to finish this stage (which depending on how you count them could be considered additional drafts.) If you do multiple readings, you should take a break between each one. This will allow you to view your novel with “fresh eyes” and will help you catch more things that need to be changed. That break can be a few days or even a week or more.

When done with this draft, you may be ready to send your story to a beta reader. But they will undoubtedly have their opinions which you may feel the need to heed. That will mean more editing and adjusting of your story.

And when you are done perfecting the story, the timeline, and the characters, it is time for the third draft. This one is about polishing. It is aboutImage result for delete key perfecting word choices, deleting words, tightening scenes even more and of course proofreading. I have a revision outline that I use at this stage and will share that in the upcoming weeks. But before I get to that, I spend time removing unnecessary words (next week’s topic) and removing or changing words that I use too often. (This is where the “Find” feature of Microsoft Word comes in handy.)

This is also where you can look at dialogue tags or to see if you use your character’s name too often. (I have the habit of using their names a lot in my first draft.)

You could send it to a beta reader (possibly again) at this point or you can simply step back from your work. Take a break. Work on something else or do some pre-release publicity. Then come back and do one final (or we hope final) read-through where you will can deem it ready for publishing. I also suggest reading your book aloud (either yourself or by having the computer do it for you.) You can catch missing words and make sure dialogue flows and is natural.

Now this is just a sample of how my work typically goes. Depending on the author, it can take many more drafts based on how much work needs to be done and what you consider a “draft.” Just as there is no “right” way to write a novel, each of us will have a different number of “drafts.” All that matters is that you take the time to polish and perfect your work BEFORE you publish it.

Previous topics

#1 – Deciding to write a novel – Writing Myths

#2 – Three areas to develop before starting to write a novel

#3 – Finding a Story Idea and How to Know if it “good enough”

#4 – Developing Characters for your Novel

#5 – Major characters? Minor Characters? Where does everyone fit in?

#6 – Developing the Setting for your Novel

#7 – The importance of developing conflict in your novel plot

#8 – To Outline or not to outline 

#9 – The importance of a story arc

#10 – The importance of tension and pace

#11 – Prologue and opening scenes

#12 – Beginning and ending scenes in a novel

#13 – The importance of dialogue…and a few tips on how to write it

#14 – Using Internal Dialogue in your novel

#15 – More dialogue tips and help with dialogue tags

#16 – Knowing and incorporating back story into your novel

#17 – Hinting at what is to come with foreshadowing

#18 – Tips for writing different scenes in your novel

#19 – Dealing with Writer’s Block

#20 – Killing a Character in your Novel

#21 – Keeping things realistic in your novel

#22 – Establishing Writing Goals and Developing Good Writing Habits

#23 – Using the five senses and passive voice in your novel

#24 – The benefit of research in fiction writing

#25 – Novella or Novel, Trilogy or Series – decisions for writers

#26 – Avoiding Plot and Character Clichés

#27 – Novel Writing – Endings and Epilogues

#28 – Fantasy Novel Writing – World Building, Dragons, Magic and More

#29 – Finishing your First Draft

Tackling the Second Draft (Novel Writing)

The first draft is done! Whew. But now the real work begins. For many authors, the first draft is just where they jot down the story. Maybe they had an outline to guide them, or maybe they simply wrote whatever came to mind. In either case, there will be a lot of rewriting and cutting coming up.

My first drafts take a long time because I spend time both writing and editing at the same time. I am constantly rewriting and refining as I write my initial draft. This means I don’t have as much to cut out or change as some authors might have.

Now every author approaches their second draft different. For me, this is a time to check the consistency and where I can amend the story either by trimming it, fleshing it out or developing subplots.

To do this, I cannot stop on every page to fix and worry over every word. That will come later. To begin, I need to read through the first draft without stopping to correct every flaw. Yes, I may add a missing word or fix a spelling error, but I try not to get into re-writing at this stage. I want to read it straight through first. As I read, I am making notes of areas that need work, whether it be adding something, deleting the scene or polishing. I am checking the timeline and looking for consistency in travel time or character behavior.

Now once I have read through and made my notes, my second draft isn’t done until I go back and make all those changes. For me, the second draft is about re-writing, expanding and cutting scenes. Descriptions are added to bring the story and characters to life. Scenes that don’t advance the story are deleted – even if they are well-written or your favorite.

Sometimes you will re-work an area once or twice. And sometimes it will take many more tries until you get it right. This part of editing where you take away and add to the story can be very messy, and you may need to be ruthless but it will make your story better, stronger.

It may take many read-throughs to finish this stage. (Which depending on how you count them could be considered additional drafts.) If you do multiple readings, you should take a break between each one. This will allow you to view your novel with “fresh eyes” and will help you catch more things that need to be changed.

And when you are done perfecting the story, the timeline, the characters, it is time for the third draft where you will further tighten your writing, perfect word choices and descriptions, cut unnecessary words and fix punctuation. (For help on the third draft, check out my revision outline).

Ah but at least we have the basics down and ready to turn into a well-written novel!

How many drafts does it take to complete a novel?

You have finally finished your first draft of your story. Now comes the real work. The cutting, the editing, the rewriting, the expanding to make your first work closer into a publishable novel.

So how many drafts does that take?

There is no correct answer. It takes as many as it takes. I tend not to break down each going through of my novel as a “draft.” As I write the first draft, I am already going back and reworking it (see my post on editing and writing at the same time). And the second draft may take just as long as the first because it is multiple reads and re-working of the first draft. (But never a full re-write of the story as some authors say they do on their second draft.)

If pressed, I would say I do three drafts. Here is a general outline of my drafts.

First Draft

The first draft is obviously when you just get your story out. It may be rough or wordy, but you got the basic plot and characters down. Now how well this draft goes depends on many things. If you developed your world and characters or outlined your story, this draft will probably go better than if you just “winged” it.

Some authors consider the first draft a “junk” or “vomit” draft. This is for the people who just type without any planning or editing as they write. They write to get something on the page. I don’t write this way so my first draft never falls in this category. (See above about editing and writing at the same time.)

Second Draft

The second draft is going to involve some re-writing as well as cutting. You expand sections to add description and make your characters come alive. You delete scenes that don’t advance your story – even if they are well-written and your favorite. You make sure the timeline works.  Sometimes you may rework an area once or twice. Maybe you will rewrite it many more times.  (Ernest Hemingway admitted to rewriting the final words A Farewell to Arms, his wartime masterpiece, 39 times before he was satisfied.)

Optionally, you may have more drafts of rewriting depending on how much work your story needs. So this could possibly be drafts two through four…or five or even more.

When done with this draft, you may be ready to send your story to a beta reader. But they will undoubtedly have their opinions which you may feel the need to heed. That will mean more editing and adjusting of your story.

Note: One key to improving your editing is to take a break from the book between drafts. You will return with “fresh” eyes and catch more things that need to be changed.

Third Draft

The third draft is more about polishing. It is perfecting word choices, deleting words, tightening scenes even more and of course proofreading. This can be laborious as I can always find thing that I want to tweak and fix. But your goal is to finish the book, not keep piddling around with the same manuscript.

And finally you end with one final (or we hope final) read-through where you will deem it ready for publishing.

Now this is just a sample of how my work typically goes. Depending on the author, it can take many more drafts based on how much work needs to be done and what you consider a “draft.” Just as there is no “right” way to write a novel, each of us will have a different number of “drafts.” All that matters is that you take the time to polish and perfect your work BEFORE you publish it.

Editing a Novel Recap

proofThis week is Spring Break for my kids. As we have activities planned each day, I am going to take the easy way out and instead of writing something new, I am going to do a recap of some of my posts on editing your novel.

First Draft: Editing and Writing at the Same Time – One of my past posts was about writing your first draft. My advice to new writers was to just begin writing and not worry about editing until you had everything down. And this is great advice, but it isn’t how my first draft goes. (To read more, click here.)

Working on my second draft – I finished the first draft on my current work in progress at the end of September. Now to many a first draft is just getting the story down.

If you use an outline and plotted out your story, it might be in good shape. Or you may have just written whatever came to you and have a lot of work to do before reaching the final product. (To continue reading, click here.)

Trimming unnecessary words during my third draft –  In October, I wrote about starting my second draft, which was all about fixing story errors and concentrating on the continuity of the storyline. In November, I began the third draft which is mainly about tightening my writing. (To trim unnecessary words, click here.)

(This is obviously an important topic as I have written on it twice – once when completing Destiny and again when I finished up The Heir to Alexandria.)

Trimming excess words from your novel – As I am editing my latest work, Destiny, I noticed that my word count keeps decreasing as I polish the sentences and remove many unnecessary words.

I have found that one word I used a lot in my original draft which is totally unnecessary is “that.” Now there is nothing wrong with this word, but often it can be cut without any loss of meaning to the sentence. (To read more, click here.)

Focusing on Content Editing –  I have discussed writing your first draft and even doing some editing as you write, but today I wanted to talk about content editing. This is where you aren’t fixing just wording or punctuation but looking more at the plot and characters. (To learn more, click here.)

Using a revision outline to guide editing your novel – Last week, I posted about content editing your novel. In the post, I mentioned that I use a revision outline, so I wanted to share that with you today. (To see the revision outline, click here.)

Picking stronger words – Today’s blog topic comes from helping my son do his homework last week. One of the assignments was to replace the verbs with stronger ones. (For help choosing stronger words, click here.)

Using beta readers to improve your novel – You have written your novel and been through it many times tweaking and perfecting the plot and scenes. You just know it will be well received. But if you think it is ready for publication now, you are missing a valuable step in the self-publishing process. As a writer you have been too close to your work. You may have not caught plot inconsistencies or realized the characters aren’t staying true to themselves. One of the best ways to catch these errors before submitting your work to an editor is to have your manuscript read by a – or better yet several – beta readers. (To continue reading, click here.)

Hopefully, you will find some useful information in these posts. And I promise a new post will be up next Thursday.

 

Working on my second draft

I finished the first draft on my current work in progress at the end of September. Now to many a first draft is just getting the story down.

If you use an outline and plotted out your story, it might be in good shape. Or you may have just written whatever came to you and have a lot of work to do before reaching the final product.

As I have mentioned in the past, I write the first draft and edit it at the same time. As I am writing out the story, my husband is reading chapters and making comments – “expand here,” “I don’t understand this,” or “This is good.”

Based on his comments, I go back and rewrite sections as I continue to write the rest of the story. (I don’t use an outline per se but am not a total by-the-seat-of-her-pants type gal either. I usually have the next few chapters planned out but not the whole story other than a general idea of where I want it to go.)

So now that my first draft is done, it is on to my second draft. Every author does things differently. Since I have really already fleshed out a lot of my novel, there is less of that to do in this second draft. My main purpose with this draft is to read through my novel looking for consistency and where I can amend the story (either by trimming it, fleshing it out or developing subplots).

I read through the whole 98,000 words without making too many corrections. I will add a word or two here if one is left out or correct the spelling of a word, but I try not to get into re-writing at this stage. As I read, I am making notes of areas that need work. I am also writing down some events to make sure I am consistent with them.

In this latest work, my main character has visions. I have been jotting down what happens in each one to make sure what she can see is consistent in each one. She also has premonition dreams, and I have been writing down each dream to make sure that when they happen later that the action matches match up with the dream. It really is all about consistency at this point.

Now once I have read through and made my notes, my second draft isn’t done until I go back and make all those changes. Now I don’t make the changes as I am reading it as I don’t want to get bogged down with making corrections. I need to read it straight through to be able to pay attention to all those details.

When these corrections are done, I can use my revision outline to tighten my writing, perfect word choices and descriptions and cut unnecessary words. And when I get to that stage, it will be my third draft. There will probably be at least one more draft after that before it is completed.

So glad the end feels near…though for me, it is the third draft that requires the most work (after the first draft, of course).

Setting and meeting a writing goal

checklistI have posted before about setting goals when writing a novel. I typically don’t like them as they never seem to help me. Something always seems to come up, so I don’t reach the number of hours or words that I want to achieve. This leaves me discouraged.

My latest novel has been a slow process. It has been almost two years since Destiny, the conclusion of my trilogy, came out. Some days I feel the need to hurry up and get this one completed. I would like to give my readers something new and of course, a writer’s credibility increases with each published novel.

Lots of things have happened in the past two years that have kept me from working on this latest book. There have been big vacations, lengthy hospital stays for my mom, the death of a friend and of course the normal crazy busy stuff of being a parent and an active community member.

Another reason this book has taken a little longer is that unlike working on Destiny, I had to start over and create a whole new world. There were magic systems to set up, characters to develop and a plot to tweak.

But even as much as I usually resist setting up a writing goal, in July, I decided I need to come up with one. I actually set up two. One was very aggressive with me putting in lots of work in a short time frame. But knowing that I would have other things – such as my bigger role with the PTA – taking up some of my time, I created a second set of goals that was probably a little more realistic.

I accomplished the first step of that second goal on Tuesday. I completed the first draft of Alexandria*. (*This is the working title and probably will change before publication day.)

Now I know there is a lot more work ahead but when I say I have done my first draft it is more than that. You see I have a habit of writing and editing at the same time. While I am writing, my husband is reading completed chapters. As he makes suggestions or corrections, I am continually adjusting and rewriting my novel. So as I began to work on my second draft, I have already basically been through the novel in its current state twice.

My official second run through will involve making sure the story line stays on course and that there are no major discrepancies. Since I have already flushed out many of the sections based on my husband’s comments, I hopefully won’t have tons of rewriting to do. If anything, I hope to trim it down some from its 98,000 words.

So the next goal is to have the second draft completed by the end of October. Well maybe it will be more like the middle of November. Either way, here is sticking to this new goal.