Rewriting, editing... how do you get to the second draft?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by RavenOfSummer, Dec 4, 2017.

  1. RavenOfSummer

    RavenOfSummer Apprentice

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    I'm new to the forums, so apologies if this is a topic people have already hashed out! But I didn't see any recent threads and I very much want to know how other people do this, so I thought I'd start one :)

    I'm seeing the light at the end of the tunnel with the first draft of my fantasy novel. I'm estimating I'm about 15k words away from getting to the end of the first draft, which feels great! But then comes...rewriting. I'm planning to put my draft down for a couple of weeks to get some distance before I start in on it again, but at the same time I don't want to wait too long.

    To me, rewriting/editing/perfecting your draft seems a lot more intimidating than writing it. The good news is I'm pretty confident that I already know what needs the most attention and where my main holes are. I'm kind of a "plantser", so I knew the skeleton of my story, how it would end, and the main points of how I was going to get there before I started. I let more of the details become clear to me through the writing, especially regarding the world, so I have a lot of world building aspects to go back and flesh out now that I understand the world myself. I also created a lot of secondary characters along the way as I needed them, so my secondary characters don't have a lot of characterization and could fit more smoothly into the plot overall, so I need to work on that and flesh that out. So I'm probably going to spend a lot of time writing out sketches and notes before I actually get back to the draft itself.

    This will be my first time doing this kind of work on a novel draft, so I'd love to know specifically what YOUR process is for doing this kind of work. How do you get to your second draft? I read in one of the NaNo threads one person said they print out their draft and go through it while typing their revised draft with changes into a brand new document, because they always got lost if they tried work within the doc. That's the kind of very specific thing that's really interesting to me...so any little things like that, or just general thoughts on getting to the second draft, I would love to know about. What is your process? How do you tackle it?
     
  2. Heliotrope

    Heliotrope Staff Article Team

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    I do mine in layers. So I will do my first draft (I'm a plotter, though, so I already have a lot of it hashed out in little "min-scetches" or drafts. Mostly a lot of lists and bullet points). After I'm finished my first draft I will go over it one layer at a time, often starting with what I deem to be most important.

    So what I mean is I might decide (as I have done with my WIP) that the setting I chose (New York) does not fit as well as I would have liked. Montreal is a much better setting for my particular story, as it ties in the themes and history better. So draft two will explicitly focus on changing the setting. I have to go through the entire thing again and focus on just the setting. This includes making sure the street names, building names, geography, culture and language are all accurate. This also means that a few of my characters are no longer American... they are French Canadian.

    Cue draft 3. Characters. Once I'm finished polishing my setting and making sure it all fits the theme nicely I will go through the draft focussing on one character at a time. Making that character come off the page as unique. Go over dialogue. Go over "costuming" (that's what I call it when a character needs to have a specific look to either address the theme, or stand out), etc. I do this for each and every character, so I have a list of ALL characters and I take notes on them as I go along so when I get to "their" draft I can report back to my notes.

    As I go I also make notes on plot:
    - This doesn't make sense.
    - Plot hole here.
    - Wait, this character shouldn't be in this scene. They are needed over "there"...

    Then I go through and fix it.
     
  3. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

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    I'm a bit of a half-pantser. I plan out all my major plot points and have a story skeleton in place before I start. I'll also have a rough map of every scene I think I'll need to get from A to Z, bits and pieces of the world, and the basic wants of my characters. But the a lot of the details of character, world, and how each scene unfolds, I pants out.

    I find that the first half of the story tends to unfold a lot like I planned, but once I reach the second half, things tend to change as I get to understand my characters more, and because of that, think of better ideas and better directions to go. Tossing out the second half of a books during second draft isn't exactly new to me.

    Any way, second drafts for me are primarily for smoothing out plot and character motivation, and when inspiration strikes, adding whatever comes to mind about character and world. But like I said, plot and motivation is the primary thing. Without those things being solid, I don't like to focus on the other things. Too much potentially wasted time.

    Once I have plot and motivation solid, with each pass, I'll focus on something different, world, character, voice, flow, etc.
     
  4. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Dark Lord

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    First, let me preface with the face that there are three of us working on this project at all times, plus an alpha reader and four beta readers, so our process doesn't so much look like writing as it does a baseball game. :D

    We are ardent outliners, to the point where much of each book is actually prewritten by the three of us before the drafter - me - gets a hold of it. Writing happens. More writing happens. There may be some crying involved, I won't say. And then we're done with the first draft. At the end of each chapter our plotter takes a whack at what I've done, laughs at me a bit over typos and continuity errors, and fixes things. Then, our fearsome alpha reader has a swing at it, finds what we've missed (why does this character have three left hands?), and sends it back to me for corrections. This entire time I'm already making revision notes for Draft 2, sometimes sneaking them in now, sometimes waiting. I call this an "accordion" approach to writing because we're always editing and rewriting as we go along.

    By the end of the process the draft has been gone over many, many times and now it's time to turn it over to the betas, who represent our target audience. We take their notes and incorporate them into our revision notes, and with a lot of elbow grease (and maybe some more crying) we have a finished book. We normally don't get much past two drafts, unless something has gone egregiously wrong, mostly due to the pre-writing we put into the outline. The outline for our current book is pushing 25 pages, single spaced, and growing like Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors.
     
  5. evolution_rex

    evolution_rex Grandmaster

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    I don't have much of an answer because my first attempt at writing a novel failed and only now am I trying to write one again. But I do feel I can say this; don't just write crap and tell yourself 'Ehh It'll all get straightened out in the next draft' because that was the mistake I made and by the time I was finished my first draft I couldn't figure out how to salvage any of it. I heavily edited it, fixed a lot of errors and plot holes, but my improvements weren't enough because of a lot of core problems with the way I'd written it. But the idea of completely rewriting from scratch frustrated me, and I couldn't do it.

    That isn't to say that you should get paranoid and make sure your first draft is perfect as you're writing it, because it's normal to feel like you're writing garbage on that first draft (from what I hear). I guess a better way to word it is not to get lazy on it, just because you know you're going to be editing it.
     
  6. RavenOfSummer

    RavenOfSummer Apprentice

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    Thanks so much everyone for responding! It's extremely helpful to get a sense of how other people work.

    I really like this idea Heliotrope. It seems much more manageable than trying to tackle everything at once. Maybe I'll do something similar...I think fleshing out my world is the number one priority for my next round, so maybe I'll focus on that and then move on to another round and focus on something else.

    My approach is actually not too far off from yours Penpilot. That's great advice- making sure you have all the key things in place with a second draft before moving on to anything else.

    That's fascinating A.E.! I would love to be able to work with a team a some point. How did you all find each other and how long have you been working together?

    evolution_rex, you have no idea how much I empathize with you! This current WIP of mine is actually my second novel attempt. My FIRST was during NaNoWriMo 2016. That one is a mainstream novel, not fantasy...I only started planning it out about a week before November (though I'd had the idea in my head for a while) and I actually managed to get to 50k within the month. However, in order to just keep writing through the month, I left a LOT of holes, skipped whole sections, didn't put a lot of thought into things when I ran into problems...and honestly, at the end of the month I felt like I just had a big mess on my hands. I STILL have not really done anything with it a year later...every time I look at it it just feels incredibly daunting. So, with my current WIP, I decided ahead of time that I was going to take things slower. I started writing in January, and when I ran into issues, or started not liking what I was writing, I stepped back, did more outlining, deleted sections, etc. I did a lot of editing as I went until I felt like I was solidly on the right track. With all my reworking, deleting, rewriting, I only had about 27k that I'd written from January to October, and since I felt I was on a solid footing I used this year's NaNo to get a bunch of work done on it. But, I decided in advance that I was only going to aim for 30k...I just need to write more slowly in order to feel like I know where I'm going, at least at this stage. I ended up writing 28k in November.

    Long story short, I've had the same experience and completely agree with you. I think it was an important experience for me to have though...it taught me a lot about writing. I still plan to go back to that first novel at some point. But, with the way I've approached my current WIP, I feel like I understand the draft so much better, I actually KNOW my draft and know what I need to address. So hopefully these second novels are more successful for both of us!
     
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  7. skip.knox

    skip.knox Staff Moderator

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    You're going to find as much diversity in how folks do a second draft as you will in how they do a first draft. The discouraging answer is, this is something you have to work out for yourself. The more encouraging answers are a bit longer.

    I have one novel done, two novelettes, and a second novel at first draft. Here is what I'm noticing. The first draft is basically me telling the story to myself. I'm getting down the important stuff, from plot to character to theme to setting. First Draft means I have got all that worked out, though none of it is immutable. I can expect a "surprise" or two. At First Draft I have anywhere from a few to several sections that are either little more than notes or consistent of two or more versions of the same scene. In other words, not at all done.

    Second draft is figuring out those incomplete or contradictory scenes. It's also very much about developing the characters. Invariably I have changed how I think about them and there are inconsistencies in how they behave. Or there are characters under developed. There are settings that need work--white rooms to be painted, especially, as I tend to get caught up in dialog and neglect the setting. There are places where I could put in foreshadowing, or theme references. There's repetition.

    Smoothing, as others have said. The goal of Second Draft is to have no more notes. Every section is written. I suppose I could wait to get all those written before declaring First Draft, but I have found that I need to declare victory as soon as I can, because the process is so exhausting for me. Second Draft is when I have no more sections where "somebody" does "something" "somewhere." Everyone has got from A to B.

    To put this more succinctly, you'll work out for yourself what constitutes each stage in the process, and when you're ready to show the thing to someone else (beta reader, editor, publisher).

    I found Janice Hardy's multi-part essay on revision to be very helpful, even though I was never able to follow the entire programme. Here's the link, though, in case it helps.
    Fiction University: At-Home Workshop: Revise Your Novel in 31 Days
     
  8. Michael K. Eidson

    Michael K. Eidson Grandmaster

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    I've made two major revisions of my WIP, rewriting the entire story both times, changing the plot, the protagonist, the view point characters, supporting cast, and just about every other facet of the story. Both times, I started over with a blank file, and copied very little from the prior revisions.

    Of course, revising is not editing. Revising came about because I decided I wanted something better as my debut novel. But I'd edited each of those two revisions and sent them to beta readers before scrapping them.

    With this third revision, I'm again in the editing phase. I'm editing in layers, like HeliotropeHeliotrope described. My layers are a little different than hers, but the idea is to focus on one aspect of the story at a time. Which aspect you choose to focus on in any given editing pass is up to you, of course, but I focus on my weaknesses. In my first editing pass on this third revision, I focused on locking down the plot, because I'd written an outline for the first two acts, but discovery wrote the third act. In locking down the plot, I worked on a scene level: removing, rearranging, altering, and adding scenes. This went relatively fast. Next was adding description, because, as ThinkerXThinkerX so adroitly pointed out during a Mythic Scribes writing challenge, my prose is often lacking description. I see the details in my head, but they don't make it into the first draft. I have other editing passes planned, based on my weaknesses as a writer.

    I'd also recommend finding an editing tool to help you catch problems in style, grammar, diction, repetitive language, etc. before passing the story to any readers. How useful this will be depends on your strengths as a writer. I've been using ProWritingAid, and it helps, even though it doesn't understand fantasy fiction. You have to assess each issue it finds to determine if its recommendation works for your WIP. You might like some other editing tools better, and some other forum members might help point you to them.

    I wrote the first draft of my WIP in Scrivener. To force myself to view the story differently, I exported it to MS Word, and am editing in Word. You can turn on change tracking in Word, if that helps your process.

    I'm a firm believer in individuality, and each writer discovering the processes that work best for her, which might change over time. Good luck with whatever editing processes you choose!
     
  9. Chessie2

    Chessie2 Mystagogue

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    As Skip said, you'll find answers as diverse as the stories we write. But I love reading how other writers work because it's interesting.

    My process is unique to me and comes from many years of discovery, toiling, and experimenting what is right for me and my work. Here goes: I don't rewrite. Other writers have gone out on a limb to tell me how much I suck for not rewriting but it's my business my problem. :) I basically write pulp fiction so my process is different from others who don't. I think your process is defined by what you write.

    I start out with an idea of setting, character, theme, subgenre. I marinate on it all for weeks or months (maybe even a few days but this is rare) before the book is written. I have a compartment of books with titles etc in my head that I write down for each year. I already have my 2018 books lined up in a word doc with titles, themes, etc.

    I bring my ideas front to write as they are ready. If I start writing a book and I'm having troubles, it's not ready. I put it aside and write something else. I have one series completed, just wrote book 2 on one, and I'm starting a 3rd new series in January. I will rotate through these books.

    I don't outline, but I do use plot points as my guide. I pants my way through those plot points, feeling out the story and letting the characters take the wheel while staying on theme. I write linear, edit as I go by reading what I wrote the previous session before I put fresh words down. My word counts range from 1-3k per day, and I pretty much write daily until the book is finished. Because I do several sweeps by the time I get to the end, I end up with a clean draft that has little need for structural changes. I do my best to get it right the first time (and it's taken me forever to learn how to do this but I've written a lot so by now it's easier).

    Here's the deal though--I have a master list of corrections I keep during the writing that I refer to at the end. I go in and add/take away/ fix mistakes. When the books is written and the items on the master list crossed off, I take it through Grammarly and Hemmingway editors.

    I do not change anything structural unless there are continuity errors I catch while editing. Then I spell check. Send it to a proofreader, fix mistakes, hit up the first reader, the book gets edited, I write the next one. I do write clean from the beginning for the most part. I can't move on unless big things are changed.
     
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2017
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  10. RavenOfSummer

    RavenOfSummer Apprentice

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    Thanks again for all of these great responses!

    Thanks skip.knox- I like the idea of the first draft as telling the story to yourself. I write similarly in terms of getting very into dialogue and leaving a lot of the setting details for later. So I know I'm going to need to focus on that. I'll check out that essay too- thanks so much!

    Thanks Michael- I think this layer approach might help me break things down and make the process more manageable. I haven't checked out any of the available software tools (just been plugging away in good ol' Microsoft word!) so will definitely consider that. I admire you doing two complete rewrites so that you can get to the best possible version of your current WIP! Since this will be my first time working past the first draft stage with a novel I think the idea of having to do something like that feels intimidating, but I think I need to just be open about what needs to happen so that I can come out with the best book possible. And I think I will try working with a brand new blank doc so I don't get mired in the weeds of an existing draft as I work on the new one.

    Thanks Chessie! What you say gives me hope that this will get easier as I get more experience as a writer and figure out what works for me. I need to keep that in mind and remember that it's ok to feel like I'm still figuring things out right now.
     
  11. Michael K. Eidson

    Michael K. Eidson Grandmaster

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    I'm hoping for the same thing, Raven, so we're in the same boat with regard to novel writing. All my previously published works have been short stories, and making the transition to novels has been intimidating. But I'm settling into processes that should serve me well when I finish this WIP and move to the next. I doubt I'll be as streamlined as Chessie for a while yet. But I aim to get there, even if I don't do exactly the same thing she does.
     
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  12. Chessie2

    Chessie2 Mystagogue

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    It's simply a matter of finding what works for you and the types of books you write. There is no right or wrong way to go about it, only the way that works for every individual writer. A process for one writer might be wrong for another, and so on.
     
  13. skip.knox

    skip.knox Staff Moderator

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    Oh that word, Chessie2. Simply. It hides so much that is not at all simple! But I know what you mean.

    The thing is, finding what works for me (you, anyone) entails first finding things that *don't* work. Sort of by definition, as once I find what works, I stop looking. And finding the things that don't work can take years. It can involve so many failures and disappointments, a person gets discouraged, or even gives up. It's like trying to find the right swing of the bat, the right way to hold the golf club, the right brush stroke. There are a thousand guides giving ten thousand kinds of advice, and still all you can do is keep trying until something seems to work. Even more discouraging, just because it worked once doesn't mean it will keep working.

    Aw, now I'm discouraging myself into the bargain. Hey, if you're trying to figure out how to move from first draft to second draft, you're already way ahead of where you were!
     
  14. Chessie2

    Chessie2 Mystagogue

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    Oh, no. I didn't mean to say the process is simple. It's one that takes years of persistence, learning, and growing in your craft. Not anything simple at all.
     
  15. RavenOfSummer

    RavenOfSummer Apprentice

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    I think that's why I wanted to start this conversation, and why it feels really helpful to hear what you all have to say. I really didn't even know where to begin, so it's great seeing what works (or doesn't work!) for other people, to give me some ideas for how I might try to go about this. Maybe if I'm lucky I'll find something that DOESN'T work for me, which will put me on the way to finding something that does :) And it also feels good just to know we're all kind of in this boat together and rooting for each other.

    YES!!
     
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  16. Nimue

    Nimue Dark Lord

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    The write-in blog Story Hospital that I’ve been following lately has a new post up about just this. It’s mostly about making large, structural changes that you know need to happen, but there’s some good general advice in there as well. Unfortunately, I don’t have my own method to share with you, because I’m so deep in the rut of not finishing things that I’ve turned it into my own cozy hobbit-hole—but best of luck to you!
     
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  17. RavenOfSummer

    RavenOfSummer Apprentice

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    Thanks Nimue, I will check this out! The person who wrote in the question sounds very similar to me. Thanks for your good wishes- it's taken me a long time to get to this stage and I'm not out of the woods yet! I definitely empathize with the rut. Maybe the community here can help pull you out!
     
  18. Butterfly

    Butterfly Dark Lord

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    I often find in redrafting that something that needs to change will force changes elsewhere in the novel. Changes are like threads that untangle or tie up bits, except the threads sometimes stretch throughout the book.

    I find that making lists of issues by chapter helps a great deal before actually jumping in with the alterations.
     
  19. noob of the north

    noob of the north Apprentice

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    Hi there. I'm also a planster and I recently started revision on my first draft of a fantasy adventure novel. It's not my favourite thing to do, I prefer the writing process, but revising and editing can be fun too, just in a different way. :) I'm also an under-writer so my revision means I have some writing to do, which is good for me, that keeps my interest up for revision. And like you, revision is when I flesh out my worldbuilding which has grown up around the characters in the first draft, because I'm not a pre-planning worldbuilder at all. Not one bit.
    What doesn't work for me in revising/editing the second draft is the different specified rounds of revision. I read about this; where one round is all about clothes, and the next all about inner observation and the next is dialogue and so on. I tried it, but I just can't seem to focus like that, and I go off to work on other things and completely forget what I was supposed to do.
    What I found does work best for me is the "One chapter"-approach where I give myself a certain amount of time to work on only one chapter and I'm not allowed to move to the next chapter until that time is up. Because I have a problem with rushing through chapters. It works best if I give myself more time than I would normally need for that chapter, so when I have nothing else to spend my writing-time on, that's when I really start to flesh out scenes and look at the paragraphs more carefully. I can only make a quick change or note of change in another chapter if I have to, but then it's right back to the prime one. And by this method I'm also allowed to focus on everything, just in smaller chunks, and that works best for me.

    This article, written by an editor, helped me a great deal too: What is Structural Editing?

    The best of luck with your second draft and it will be interesting to hear if you find your revision process, and what works for you and not. :)
     
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  20. RavenOfSummer

    RavenOfSummer Apprentice

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    This is something I'm afraid of actually...that I'll start out feeling like I know what changes need to be made, then as I start to make them I'll realize that those changes mean a whole bunch of related changes that I hadn't planned for, and that the task will quickly spiral into something that feels really overwhelming. But I think what I've realized from reading these responses is that I can't be afraid of that. If that happens, so be it- I just need to try to not feel overwhelmed by it and keep plugging away. Right now I feel like I have a pretty good handle on the main changes that need to be made (although it's probably folly for me to think I have a good handle on anything!), so I'll start with that and see where it leads me. I like the idea of making lists of issues to be tackled! I have kind of a running note of things I feel like need to be addressed or added, but it's pretty messy so it's probably a good idea for me to go through and organize that before I get started. Thanks!

    Thanks noob- this gives me a completely different approach I can try, depending on how things go. It sounds like our approaches to writing are quite similar, so I wonder if that means similar approaches to revising will work as well? I'm glad to know there are others who flesh out their world after it has developed around the character and story in the drafting process! I'll check out the article as well :)
     
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