Writing the Second Draft

A series looking at drafting novels and long-form fiction. This essay deals with the second draft.

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Follows: First Draft

Once the first draft is complete, time needs to pass before the writer can work on the second. It needs to gestate and the writer, as the least-objective person to assess the merit of their own work, needs distance to be able to evaluate their writing in a less subjective fashion.

The second draft is where plot holes and character inconsistencies can be fixed, but also where the fat is trimmed and the lean is fleshed-out. It is an opportunity to rewrite, quite literally, and the best way to do so is to start again.

As hard as it may sound, put the first draft away and open a fresh, blank document. Then, from the beginning, write it again from memory. This allows the writer to bring through all the key sentences that were so good they remained in their mind, whilst also writing the entire second draft in a more consistent and clear style.

It is incredibly tempting to refer back to the first draft, or just revise it instead of rewriting, but in order to craft a true masterpiece a writer needs to refine their work. Much like a speech will get better with repetition—the waffle is removed, the key points emphasised, the delivery bettered—so too will a story. Those darlings the writer loves will remain, and any which do not deserve to be killed.

As with the first draft, the second will build into a fully-fledged narrative, but this time it will be stronger and slicker. As each chapter, each story beat, and each act is already established, the writer can focus instead on crafting the story instead of finding it. The path is already laid, it just needs to be trodden more efficiently and effectively.

Writing the second draft will mean major changes, but these will occur naturally as the story is told. The overall picture will stay true and the writer can focus on scenes instead of wondering where the narrative will next lead them.

The second draft allows the writer to flesh out the side-line characters, turning them into three-dimensional individuals instead of plot-points or cut-outs. Alongside them, the main characters will become more consistent and their intricacies and flaws will be developed further from the first draft. The writer knows these characters, and this is their opportunity to have a say in their own story.

As the plot is already in place, the writer can concentrate on closing plot holes, making their hidden foreshadowing less noticeable, and matching up their story to their chosen number of acts whilst simultaneously keeping the reader guessing. Successful second drafts enhance and improve the plot, building a more effective narrative that is both less obvious and predictable and also more streamlined and focused.

The second draft is an opportunity to fix the problems of the first. Once written, the writer can compare it with the first and, if they choose, rework sections they missed or include elements they feel are lacking in the rewrite.

Once the second draft is complete, it needs to again be put to one side before the third draft can begin, as the writer will have become too immersed. The gap between can be less than from the first to the second, but there still needs to be a break before editing can begin.

 

Next: Third Draft

Originally from Thanet, J A DuMairier enjoys writing and long walks in the country.

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