Writing the Second Draft: How I’m Surviving the Transition from Muses to Musing – Day 151

[Important note: I have a book giveaway at the end of this post, so don’t run away! Scroll down to find out how to win your free copy…]

I like writing first drafts. You are accountable to nobody, and you’re free to just roam the expanses of your mind, letting the muses guide you as they will.

Second drafts on the other hand are different, as I’m quickly learning. You need a much different mindset as you transition from writing the first draft to writing/editing the second, and to be honest it was a little difficult for me at first to adjust.

I think the biggest reason for this is that in the second draft you have to start writing deliberately, shifting from carefree muses to careful musings. This is the moment when you start becoming accountable to the reader, and start crafting a story that will be understood – and enjoyed – by anyone not living inside your head. (Hopefully that’s almost everyone in the world.)

I’ve touched on writing deliberately already but I wanted to expand on that thought. I think there some important lessons for me (and perhaps other first-time novelists) about the difference between writing the first and the second draft.

Art vs. Craft

As I touched on above, my first draft was pure creativity. I had a sense of the story, but I didn’t “confine” my ideas to any sort of structure.

But as I learned from Story Structure Demystified by Larry Brooks (which I shared with you here: http://afewstrongwords.com/2011/01/day-122-cant-get-you-outta-my-head/), ultimately there does have to be a certain structure to the story, or you’ll lose the reader.

The second draft is where I’m starting to form that structure. If the first draft was about the “art” of the novel (putting down ideas and seeing what rings true), the second draft is about the “craft” of it: putting those ideas in an order that is coherent, builds suspense, and (most importantly) is entertaining.

That’s not to say that art is not involved. It’s just that it now becomes, let’s say, “art with purpose”.

It Takes Time

Lots of time. I’ve tried to follow the same writing plan I had for the first draft, writing an hour per day, every day. I’m finding though that the schedule doesn’t work as well in the second draft.

To be honest, I’ve been swamped with work in my “day” job, so that hasn’t helped. Still, the big difference is that with the first draft I could just pick up and put down the story any old place – even skip to somewhere different if I wanted to. That’s not easy to do with the second draft when cohesiveness is important.

I’m shifting to more of a weekend schedule right now, and that seems to be helping. It gives me the time to sit down and consider each scene, rewrite what I have, and write what I don’t without the time constraints of an hour-per-day schedule.

That may change when work falls off a bit and I can spend more time during a week day (or night) to sit down with the novel. But for now, this is working well.

(As an aside, it strikes me as funny how for the first draft I needed creative flexibility, and for the second draft I need time flexibility… interesting.)

The Demons Must Be Shooed Away

This is perhaps the most difficult part. In the first draft, I had a strict rule not to re-read what I had written. In fact it was such a strict rule, I only broke it twice.

One huge reason for the rule was that I didn’t want the opportunity for doubt to creep in. Not only would that possibly discourage me to the point of walking away from the novel, but it is much harder to write when a million demon critiques are sitting on your shoulder, talking in your ear. Perhaps you know of what I speak.

For the second draft, re-reading what I wrote is kind of a prerequisite (funny, that). Although on the surface I’m happy with what I wrote, sometimes it does take a brave front to stare those demons down. To help with that, I’m telling myself that it’s still not important to nail it yet – the third and fourth drafts will be where the true polishing happens.

So there you have it. The most important takeaway for me is to realize that writing the first and second drafts are completely different things. The first draft is more about the creative process, whereas the second is about trying to harness that creativity into something useful. It took me a little while to understand that. But now that I do, I’m finding I’m adjusting to it well…


Book Giveaway – One Vintage by Chris Jones

On Day 106, I mentioned a book I found called One Vintage, which was inspired at least in part by Sideways. (see “…And If Anyone Orders Any !*&#W Merlot, I’m Leaving.”) What I didn’t tell you is that I actually bought two copies, hoping to give one away as a gift. Well, I thought, what better person than one of my readers?

As I mentioned in the post, it is a beautiful book full of pictures and bound in real cork. Written by Chris Jones and published by Sage Hill Publishing (a self imprint), it describes a “year in the life” of the vineyard that she and her husband own in the Santa Ynez valley.

I still have mine on display, and I bring it out when company’s over – especially the wine lovers. It’s always a big hit, and it’s a book I know I’ll read again.

(If you don’t want to wait to see if you’ve won next week, you can still order copies from http://www.sagehillpublishing.com/ and learn more about the book.)

So here’s the dealy. Next Friday at 12 noon Eastern I will draw one name from my email subscribers to see who wins the copy of the book. If you haven’t subscribed yet, don’t worry –you can still do so until Friday, February 11 at 11:59 am Eastern Time (8:59 am Pacific, 4:59 pm GMT – the Daily Report subscription form is at the top of the right sidebar there, just under the banner.) I’ll notify the winner via email (make sure yours is entered correctly!) to get delivery details, and announce the winner on this blog.

When you subscribe, you’ll be notified via email the moment I update my blog with a new Daily Report post. Please note: I do not share your email or any contact information with anybody. Further, you may choose to unsubscribe from the Daily Report at any time (though I might send you the occasional email to update you on some really big news in the future, like major milestones, etc.)

If you are signed up by RSS feed or any other method, please take a moment to subscribe to the email report as well to make sure you’re included in the contest. Don’t forget, you can always unsubscribe later…!

Good luck to all!

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