1. Daniel
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    Daniel I'm sure you've heard the rumors. Founder Staff Contributor

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    2nd draft = 1st draft - 10%

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Daniel, Oct 2, 2006.

    What are your thoughts on this? This is something Stephen King was told by and editor when he was first starting out.

    Basically that the 2nd draft of writing (namely, a novel) should be the 1st draft minus 10%.

    Effect? Good advice?
     
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  2. trailer trash
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    trailer trash Senior Member

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    Yes, that is good advice in my way of thinking and what I have been taught. I think the best advice that Stephen King ever gave anyone was don't start editing until you have finished the story.

    Thanks for posting
     
  3. Spherical Time
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    Spherical Time Contributing Member

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    My beginnings are bad, and usually need to be chopped into non-existence, so I can't completely disagree with his advice.
     
  4. Laimtoe
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    Laimtoe Senior Member

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    I think that's a general rule to play out. I believe in third drafts. The second draft is a touch up on everything. The third draft is to delete the crap.
     
  5. Spherical Time
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    Spherical Time Contributing Member

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    I think you used second there one to many times there, but I agree with you to some extent.

    I don't necessarily think that the third draft is the charm though. It's as many drafts as you need to do.
     
  6. Laimtoe
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    Laimtoe Senior Member

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    There I edited it... I must have seemed like an idiot.

    I agree. There are times when you use one word one too many times and you don't realize it until months later... you also change tense and there's punctuation and all sorts of things that you need to have your eye looking for. It's tough to come out with a real work of art at the end.
     
  7. Mercury
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    Mercury Active Member

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    I remember seeing such quotes as 'all writing is re-writing', 'editing gives us the chance to fake being a great writer', and more relevantly: 'This piece is a lot longer than I intended, but I have not had time to make it shorter.'

    Do what Kingy-boy advises and you usually distill and purify your work to a more powerful level - which the reader will greatly appreciate.

    I've never written a first draft that didn't contain a lot of unnecessary prose
     
  8. Max Vantage
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    Max Vantage Banned

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    This analogy is about stripping away all of the inessentials that have occured with the first draft. Just like taking away all of the unneccessary vegetables so that you're left with nothing but the juicy meat. I like it. :cool:
     
  9. Quillpen
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    Quillpen New Member

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    What does that mean exaclty.Sometimes when you write the second draft it's longer.When does that advice come in then?
     
  10. Max Vantage
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    Max Vantage Banned

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    I think the best way to enivsion it were to think of a potter. There's a massive mound of clay ready to be sculpted into something (anything, it doesn't really matter what it is). Adding more clay to the accumulated mass already is likely to make a huge pile of confused mess. But the best potters strip away what is not needed to reveal a piece of art.

    Granted, yes you're right in a lot of ways. Making stories longer does happen. But isn't it already a case where the concerned story was simply undeveloped and needed more attention and content to thicken it out?
     
  11. xxkozxx
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    xxkozxx Active Member

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    I think by natural selection (if you edit properly) your second draft ends up at -10% anyhow. I think you should edit it according to flow and rythm and not be so specific about how much you need to cut out and where.
     
  12. zerobytes
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    zerobytes Contributing Member

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    Agreed. It's my experience that you put down a whole lot more in the first draft than needs to be there but you're just writing it all as it comes and you want to get every idea down that comes to you (...well, almost). So, by trimming it you get a much more concentrated story that readers find to be much more rewarding. Otherwise you end up with a book like Rainbow Six.
     
  13. Mr Steve
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    Mr Steve New Member

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    I remember reading that after writing your first draft, throw away the first chapter. Might seem a tad extreme but I guess in some cases it might work.
     
  14. Robert
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    Robert Banned

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    On its own, no, I don't think it's good advice, because like many such gems it's too simple a message standalone. You don't improve a story simply by removing 10%. You might be removing the best 10% and end up with something that's shorter but worse. Revising is as important as the initial writing, and you need to know how to analyse your work to see where its strengths and weaknesses are, what to trim and what not to.

    But yes, often a second draft will be shorter than the first, and maybe 10% is close to typical.

    Cheers,
    Rob
     
  15. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i wouldn't recommend following any 'absolutes' issued by anyone... that one makes no sense, since your first draft may be missing some important stuff and thus need to have 10% added!

    as for the source, he's not a good writer [far from it, actually], only a popular and prolific one... i'd be more likely to accept advice from a genuinely fine writer, than a schlock shock-meister like king...

    love and hugs, maia
     
  16. Max Vantage
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    Max Vantage Banned

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    This is the 'cutting into the thick of the action' device; meaning that most books written today still follow the old style whereby there would be incredibly long description of the scene, locations, character backgrounds etc, etc before the actual plot kicks in. Nowadays, with an audience with ever decreasing attention spans, it's recommended to start your stories on "Rock 'n' Roll". 'Start with a bang' as they say. 'Grab the audience/listener/reader/whatever by the balls on the first sentence' blah blah blah.

    Personally I think that's true with the cinema audience whereby you only have them for typically 2 hours. With books and book readers I don't really think that it should apply too much as you can often come back to a book time and time again at one's own leisure.
     
  17. Max Vantage
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    Max Vantage Banned

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    It's more to do with seasoned writers who use the technique to write as much as you can with the first draft so it saves you of having to continuously dream up even more stuff. I still think it's better to cut and edit your work after writing so much than having to go back to the drawing bored having to rewrite most of the book because of lack of ideas. It makes much more sense for a story to be sculpted the quoted way as by the original poster. I'd rather strip away what I didn't need knowing that what I'm left with is going to be the bare bones madness needed for a good read. Most of the time less is definitely more.

    Duck and geese. Your taste is not always reflected the same by others. It's all a matter of personal taste and preferences.
     
  18. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    in this case, my taste is echoed by most [if not all] professional literary critics and those who hand out literary awards... he hasn't won any of the most prestigious ones and the best he's got on his mantel is only an 'honorary' one from the national book awards... and an o. henry for a short story... none of his books themselves have garnered a major prize...

    but i agree that his loyal fans might not agree with the rest of us... ;-)
     
  19. Max Vantage
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    Max Vantage Banned

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    Granted, I've never actually read a Stephen King novel as it's not my usual thing so I can't really give any personal opinion, but I have noticed a lot that the best stuff often gets the worst critcism. The only critics I'll ever listen to would be the fans who would read my books (that is, if I ever write one that hopefully would ever be published).

    Are prizes or awards all that important in distinguishing the difference between good writing and bad? I suppose so in the stuffy snobby world of critics and "artistes", but my money is on the amount of books an author sells matched against the numbers in a fanbase and whether it increases or decreases. Stuff the awards. Their only purpose is for people to forget about them and also to collect dust somewhere. Writers are only as good as their last piece of work.
     
  20. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    sorry, but the number of books sold only reflects how popular writer are, not how well they may write...

    the reason being that most popular book buyers don't know [or notice] the difference between writing excellence and a story that catches their interest... and they don't much care... they buy books to be entertained, not because they're written by the finest writers...

    so, the awards are very much needed, to pay homage to those few who have perfected the art of writing regardless of the current popular taste for this or that genre/'name' author...

    would you really put the nobel and the pulitzer and pen awards in that denigrating 'stuff the awards' box?... when you say 'writers are only as good...' you are really saying 'only as successful' or 'only as popular'... 'good' is something else, altogether...
     
  21. Max Vantage
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    Max Vantage Banned

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    I would agree, but I simply can't get the fact out of my head that awards are useless. Who cares if a writer has perfected the art of writing? As long as it's good then who cares if it's sloppy? Frankly, if a book isn't entertaining but it has merited a nod from the likes of pulitzer then it pretty much goes to support my analogy of the worth of an award. If it's pointless regardless whether a writer entertains a mass crowd then it's still nothing but a pointless award.

    You name me one person who has won the pulitzer who is more famous in name than Stephen King. Like I said, I've never read one of his stories but his name is going to last through the ages. I can't even think of one person as big as him who has won pulitzer. A fanbase is nice, but it's not because you have won a damn award. It's because people whose imagination you have piqued comes back for more.

    Hell, if the only reason I have a regular reader base is because I won an award I sure wouldn't want to be surrounded by them glory-seeking phonies.
     
  22. Robert
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    Robert Banned

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    Hemingway.
     
  23. Max Vantage
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    Max Vantage Banned

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    And is he as read as much as King? (I don't know. Just curious).
     
  24. Draven
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    Draven Member

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    My rule with second drafts is: A little bit more, and a little bit less. I try to shorten sentences (and the story itself) while keeping the exact same concepts present.

    Long and boring: Bill slowly walked to the store uncertain of how events would fold out, and whether or not he would be get home.

    Corrected: Uncertain of his fate, Bill walked to the store.
     
  25. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    ...the millions in the world like myself, who see writing as an art and prize excellence of wordsmanship and the ultimate in skill, over a knack for mechanically turning out stacks of pancake best-sellers...

    ...that makes no sense... if it's sloppy, it's NOT 'good'... sadly, lots of book buyers/readers wouldn't know good writing if they saw it, because they don't even speak with a good command of english [prez bush is a prime example, so don't think i'm only referring to a certain class of folks]...

    ...to whom?... you are not all readers and critics, are you?...

    ...pointless to you, maybe... but not to anyone who knows and cares about good writing and reads [and yes, enjoys!] the good stuff...

    ...i don't think i'll waste my time giving you the long list, because it's becoming obvious that you will most likely never have even heard of them... i have to wonder where you went to school and what you were taught in english lit...

    ...yeah, as the shock-schlockmeister who sells millions of books!... but NOT as a good writer...

    ...thanks, you just proved my point...

    ...and that makes you a well-known popular writer of pop fiction, but not necessarily a good writer...

    ...you've got that backwards... the awards don't go to unknowns... the winners do have 'regular reader bases'... you've made it clear that you're just not among them... and it's not worth my time to try to make you see the difference, when you're so set against it... so, we'll have to agree to disagree...

    hugs, maia
     

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