My Writing Process – Second Draft

The second draft is where all the real work happens. My first draft has been left to gather dust while my brain has been focused on something else, but I can’t put it off any longer. I choose a day when I’m not going to be interrupted and I read my printed out first draft straight through.
I’m not interested in the punctuation or vocabulary at this stage. I might mark a paragraph with ‘Extend’ or ‘Cut’ or ‘Dragging here’.
I also add things to my To Do list.


It’s a weird mixture of research points I need to check (I try not to interrupt my first draft by browsing the internet), reminders of things to check over all – 40 illustrations is the number of illustrations the publisher has budgeted for – and nitty gritty stuff like how I refer to the competition in the story – National Brainiac Championship Final.
Often it has more scribble than typed out notes, although if it gets to the point that I can’t read my own writing, I’ll type it all out afresh. 


If I feel the book is dragging, normally in the first half, I print it out in small font and lay it out on the floor and mark the chapters that need condensing. If I’m lucky someone helps me.
I find looking at the manuscript as a whole, rather than the words on the page, allows me to be more subjective and therefore more brutal with my axe. 
If the beginning part of the novel is dragging, then I need less pages. I don’t argue with Louie the editing cat because I’m working with the door open now. If something needs changing, I change it. I go back to my cards on the board (see my blog post on planning) and work out which cards to pull down or condense into less chapters. I often find the flabbiness has crept in because I ignored my plot outline and wrote a few extra chapters I hadn’t planned. But I needed to write those chapters to make certain points. So I try and work out how to make those points in less chapters so I can get back to the lean book I wanted to write.

Now it’s time to start writing the second draft.
On the first day I work on the first chapter. On the second day I look at Chapter One and Two. Day Three – Chapter One, Two and Three. On the fourth day I don’t bother working on Chapter One any more.
I work through the book working on three chapters at a time. I’m on the computer now. If I need to write anything more than a sentence, I go back to pen and paper. Sometimes I’m cutting and sometimes I’m adding. The word count doesn’t change that much, but the story becomes clearer and stronger.
Once I’ve worked on some of the early chapters, I share my work with my critique buddies. These writers are some of my closest friends. We share our work and share our thoughts on our work. I reflect on what they say and then adjust my work again until the second draft is finished. The second draft takes months rather than weeks. For me, it is the hardest part of the process.
When I’m done, I send the manuscript to my agent and then it’s time for the third draft.

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