1. Jeff Countryman
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    Jeff Countryman Living the dream Supporter

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    The Dreaded 2nd Draft. What's The Secret?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Jeff Countryman, Jun 28, 2016.

    I did what the writer's law says: "When you have finished the first draft, stuff in a drawer and go outside and play." My draft has been collecting dust for almost 6 months. Playtime is over. Back to work.

    This beast tops out around 400,000 words of a planned 300,000 word novel (yep, it's big). No big deal though. I take it out, blow off the dust, and begin reading. I hate everything, of course. That's expected.

    Here's where I'm stuck: How on earth do I write the 2nd draft when I keep going back to the 1st one and trying to 'edit it'. I don't want to edit the darn thing....it needs a re-write. There's a word here, a phrase there, and even a whole sentence sometimes, that I like and want to transfer to my 2nd draft . . . . BUT, then I end up keeping the whole darned paragraph and/or scene. And then, I re-read what I wrote and hate it all over again.

    There's gotta be a secret to this 2nd draft thing. What is it? I'm in no rush to write nor publish it . . . if it takes me another 50 years, who cares. I write as a hobby and love of the craft and the relaxation - but, this isn't fun anymore. It's damned hard work! But I still love writing the story, and writing in general. I'm guessing I'm just frustrated by my lack of knowledge/skills needed to write the 2nd draft. Any suggestions, hints, secrets to accomplish the dreaded 2nd draft?

    Thanks all.

    Cheers,
    Jeff
     
  2. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm slightly confused. I always assumed that the second draft WAS an edited version of the first draft. Maybe very very very heavily edited, but, edited.
     
  3. Jeff Countryman
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    Jeff Countryman Living the dream Supporter

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    I think it's just a personal preference to either edit (heavily) or re-write. My beast needs a re-write . . . it's just that bad :) (written over a long period of time and lost it's 'voice' etc)
     
  4. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I suspect that this may be a matter of a difference in our methods of editing. When I'm done editing a piece, it often has almost no resemblance to the starting point. :)
     
  5. CrusherBrooks
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    CrusherBrooks Member Supporter

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    I've just finished what I call my first editing cycle for my first ever novel; about 120k words. Yes, some things are terrible (especially the style in the first ~30k words, since I had zero experience at that time). I decided to first fix all internal consistency and plot holes/incredibilities, now I'm working on the characters (ok not yet, but I will start in 2 weeks when pre-summer presentation season is over), and finally I'll fix the style. By then I'll probably have more ideas. In the end I expect most of it to be re-written, but not all at the same time. I figured if I try to re-write I'll just lose time editing the new texts, too.
    Perhaps I'll call this 3 times edited version my second draft. Future will tell. If you really think it's unsalvageable though, there's not a lot anyone will be able to say to change your mind ;)
     
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  6. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've never done a second draft the way you're describing it, so this is based on supposition, not experience:

    Maybe you need to print it out and get out the highlighters. One colour for text you want to save verbatim, one for important plot points, etc.

    Alternatively, maybe you open a new document on your computer and cut and paste all the bits you want to keep, with point-form notes to cover the plot points in between the good bits.

    Maybe you go to the top of your document and start re-typing, deleting the old words as you go, skimming ahead at each paragraph to figure out what to keep.

    It all sounds terrible, to me, but if that's where you're at...
     
  7. Jeff Countryman
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    Jeff Countryman Living the dream Supporter

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    That actually sounds the most reasonable, and I've thought of it too (and others have suggested it to me) . . . but it's mega pages to print. I'll probably swallow the cost and do it. I can 'highlight' on the word processsor and keep that copy on the side (the beauty of computers!) BUT it's too tempting to keep copying. So, I'm thinking the hard copy as you suggested is best. Thanks!
     
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  8. Lew
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    Lew Contributing Member Contributor

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    Working on one, the fifth revision to one about your size (240K words/800 pages). Mine was developed over 20 years with a thirteen year gap in the middle when it just took up space in my hard drive. So there were continuity issues. For me, there are three different types of editing best taken sequentially and not mixed
    REV 1 (simple editing): catch the typos, the mismatched speech tags, basic SPaG. That is the easy part, so get that part out of the way.
    REV 2. (polishing): take a narrative, and turn it into dialogue or action. Review each paragraph and even chapter to determine if this contributes to the final story: Be brutal, especially since you, like me, have a long story. Flow, wordology, add or reduce descriptions, check for consistent POV. However, this like REV 1 is not too hard.
    REV 3 (Major revision): Some major revisions I made: I introduced a female who started off as vivacious and outgoing. However she was a concubine to someone who beat her and verbally abused her, separated from him for the first time since she was given to him at twelve. That vivacious outgoing persona was her exiting personality, but she had to develop into that.... it was what I wanted her to be at the end, not how she had to first appear. Her friendship with the Roman centurion develops much more slowly and awkwardly than it did in REV 0 (they still wind up married). Things like that. That is the hard part for me. Look at each of your characters' actions... why are they doing that? WOULD they be doing that? Save REV 3 for the end, because as you go through REV 1 and 2 you will see those issues come up. Keep a list, but don't handle that simultaneously.

    And don't discard your cuts! The original 20 year old chapter 1 was a sword fight between two Roman soldiers, obviously in China, a flash forward, followed by their detaching from their legion in Syria to go there. This chapter one was discarded in favor of a better opening. But about 2/3 of the way through the book, one of the same Roman soldiers engages in in a training bout with a warrior woman of the Xiongnu. Voila! a few major mods, taking place in a nomadic yurt encampment rather than a Chinese dojo (?) for martial arts training, and a few name changes, and it dropped right in! I keep archive folders for each revision, so nothing is ever lost.

    At the end of REV3 go back and repeat the process, until you would rather poke yourself in the eye with a sharp stick than edit it again. Then get someone else to critique it, get out that sharp stick, and incorporate their edits.
     
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  9. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    I can only tell you what I did, not for a second draft (which is where it should have been done) but for the 8th...

    Look for the structure of the story.

    Read a book on story structure if you don't know a lot about it. I usually suggest Blake Snyder's Save the Cat! series (yes, the entire series) but it can be anything from Joseph Campbell to Syd Field. The main thing is you want to walk away with ideas for how to bring out the peaks and valleys of the story. Even Dwight V. Swain will help with this (see my sig)

    Read through your story and pick out the main plot points. For this step, you may want to print it out so you're not tempted to edit as you go. At the very least, generate a PDF and read that rather than using a word processor. (A PDF has the added bonus of allowing you to add highlighting and notes, but not allowing you to change the text itself.)

    Plot it out on index cards.

    Once you've found the structure, write it out on index cards or using any software that simulates them. Start with just the main beats of the story: catalyst, turning points, etc.

    Then go back and fill in the blanks with interesting events, scenes where your characters are pursuing goals that will lead to achieving the main goal of the plot (or sending them down blind alleys, taking them even further from achieving the main goal). Use events already in your story or come up with new ones, whatever will serve the story best.

    Write an outline from the index cards.

    You may or may not need to do this, but I recommend it because it gives you another step during which you can reject things that don't work or find holes that need filling. And I recommend doing it in prose, not point form because you have to think things through more when you write prose.

    Rewrite.

    And if the second draft is going to be a major reshaping of the story, you might want to save polishing for a third draft. But if not, don't leave a single paragraph until you've:
    • made sure it fits the narrative mood and voice,
    • made sure it covers one idea/topic and no more,
    • combined adjacent paragraphs if they cover the same topic/idea,
    • replaced every passive verb or convinced yourself that it simply can't be replaced,
    • varied the lengths of your sentences until they flow smoothly,
    • checked every word to make sure it's spelled correctly,
    • checked your grammar so it fits the narrative voice (but not necessarily English 101 rules),
    • read it out loud to make sure you can read it without tripping over tongue-twisters or clunky expressions of thought.
     
  10. bdw8
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    bdw8 Member

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    I completely agree with Sack-a-Doo!, although for me index cards weren't enough. I turned my first draft into a really detailed outline, with loads of nested bullet points. That way, I had close to the full detail of the first draft, but I could choose exactly what granularity I wanted to focus on or keep. I turned my 120-page document into a 20-page outline, and then turned that into a single page.

    From this single-page outline, I'm back up to a 12-page outline now, but I've been through half a dozen major rewrites of it, and innumerable smaller changes. I changed the setting, the main character, the main plot, the theme -- just about everything, and yet the draft I have now is much closer to what I originally wanted.

    I also wrote out a detailed timeline of everything that happens, both before and during the story -- even if it's not depicted. I wrote multiple revisions character bios and arcs, and squirreled away hundreds of little notes. Once I had all the big elements set, turning the single-page outline back into 12 pages was easy -- I just integrated the best parts of all the notes that applied and filled in the rest... I'm still sort of massaging some of the finer points, but adding detail, dialogue, action, etc is the easy/fun part -- in fact, it's very difficult to keep this stuff from creeping into my outlines!

    To paraphrase any number of great writers, "Writing is rewriting." Good luck!
     
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  11. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Maybe this is the point to give your first draft to a beta. Make it somebody you think would like your subject matter and/or style. It's hard to 'see' your writing until somebody else tells you what they saw while reading it.

    This beta doesn't have to be a fellow writer, but should be somebody who will stick with the story, and somebody who, if your story was perfect and on the shelves for sale, would be likely to buy it. Don't give a historical novel to somebody who only likes contemporary stories, or a fantasy novel to somebody who dislikes fantasy. Dig around till you find somebody who is likely to be interested in the story you just tried to tell.

    Obviously, as @Lew says, go through first and sort out any SPAG errors. Try not to land your beta with a whole load of correction to do. Not only is it a waste of their time if it's something you can do yourself—and if you're to be taken seriously as a writer, you should be able to do it yourself—but it will distract them from what they need to be looking for.

    You could tell them you want to cut it down, size-wise, so have them be on the lookout for scenes or chapters that could go, or places that could lose padding. Maybe you have too many passages of dialogue in there for 'flavour,' that don't help carry the story. Or maybe you've done too many excessive detailed descriptions, when more focused descriptions would work better. Have them be on the lookout for repetitive writing. I know I was able to dump a LOT of words once I got over the need to elaborate on everything two or three times. It was one of my worst habits, actually ...the 'in other words' impulse to re-state everything, in case the reader didn't get it the first time. Learn to say it once, say it well, and move on.

    Get them to be on the lookout for places that drag for them. Any places where they are tempted to skip ahead.

    Also have them take note of places where they are confused. I don't mean places where they don't know what will happen next, or don't understand why somebody does something ...presumably these questions will be answered if they keep reading. Just have them look for places where they don't actually know what's happening. Any place where they have to backtrack to figure out what's going on, or who is speaking, or where the scene is taking place will need work.

    Let them tell you what they think of your characters and what happened in the story. Try to listen to what they tell you and ask questions to get them to tell you more. Resist the urge (and you will have the urge!) to defend your story or argue with them. Just get feedback, and go away and think about what they tell you.

    I guarantee that with decent feedback, you'll find the editing process is a lot more rewarding than you thought it would be. Feedback helps you set goals—specific goals—which is a lot easier than looking at the whole thing with a despairing eye.

    And ...once you've got their feedback and hopefully made lots of changes ...then rinse and repeat. Don't go back to the same reader for approval. Instead, move on and get another reader. If that reader doesn't bring up any of the issues your first reader did, then you'll know your first tranche of problems have probably been solved.

    The more betas you can get, the better. But don't waste them all on the first draft. Save a few for later on, for subsequent drafts.

    Editing is great fun, once you get into it. This is where the raw story you told becomes refined and as near perfect as you can get it. Good luck.
     
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  12. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    If you have a Kindle, you can export your MS to the Kindle to read it there. Just open your document, choose 'export' and probably Word, if it's an option. Or if you already write in Word, it's probably okay.

    If you have a Kindle, you'll find a special Kindle email address for yourself under 'settings' in the section of your account called Manage your Devices, or something like that. This will be different from your normal email address.

    All you need to do is sent an email to that address. This is important. On the subject line, put "convert (name of document)." The Kindle will convert the document so you can alter font size, etc, as if it were a real book. Then attach the document. That should do the trick.

    This has the added plus of letting you see what your book is likely to look like as it's being read.

    You can then read it at your leisure. Maybe take notes, etc. Of course you can't make changes on the Kindle and transfer them back to your document on computer, but it's a great way to get a feel for your book and how it reads.
     
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  13. Jeff Countryman
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    Jeff Countryman Living the dream Supporter

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    This is cool - never knew I could do this! Trying it now! Thanks :)
     
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  14. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Just a wee addition—don't know if it will apply to you. I work on a Mac, and am still using Mountain Lion. My wordprocessor is Pages, so I used to export into Rich Text Format (RTF) for Kindle. This worked a treat. I use italics in my story, so it was important that the formatting got kept.

    I also had the option of exporting in Word. I tried that, and it all worked fine until I opened the Word-converted document on Kindle to read it. The italics had disappeared. Grrr.

    Especially GRRRR—as the newest version of Pages which I'll be forced to adopt when I upgrade my system to El Capitan this month does NOT support RTF any more.

    However, I had some good news yesterday. I tested a copy of my novel on my husband's new laptop which has El Capitan installed, and exported via Word on the new system (the only option available for this purpose) ...and hooray! The NEW version of Word did retain the italics when it arrived on the Kindle. Whew.

    However, all the files I've saved in RTF (we were told less than 2 years ago to future-proof our files this way) will now have to be reconverted back to Pages before I make the changeover. Otherwise Pages won't recognise them or open them.

    What a palaver.
     
  15. mrieder79
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    mrieder79 Not a ground squirrel

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    My approach is like pruning a bush. The first thing I do with my rough draft is a straight read-through as fast as I can. This gets the entire story in my head and lets me see which large parts need to be cut away. I do the big cutting first. There will be whole scenes and possibly entire chapters that are obviously irrelevant. Cut them. Don't waste your time doing spelling and grammar checks on something that is going to be cut.

    Once you have the big parts cut out, then I start on the minor cuts. Here I look at what aspects of "keeper" scenes are unnecessary. I cut them.

    Only after I have made all my cuts do I begin to address the writing.
     
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  16. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm never sure when it's time to do this, before or after the rewrite.

    And the value of a quality beta-reader is... well, there's no way to put a value on this person. A bad one can either depress you or open your eyes, but a good one can prompt new ideas that even they didn't think of. And a great one? Let's just say it's like having a bottomless purse, a candy store and someone to carry everything you bought (and drive you home and tuck you in, etc. etc.) all this and yet they also manage not to impose on your creative process. If you find one like this, hold on with both hands!

    I stopped sending first drafts to beta readers because, after doing it a few times, I realized most of the feedback was stuff I could have figured out on my own if I'd taken the time and not fallen into the trap of thinking my story was the best thing ever, even including the bread slicer. I'm certainly not implying that anyone else does this, but it took me years to get past it.

    Excellent advice. Aim for word pictures; they stick in the mind best.
     
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