Tuesday 30 March 2021

The Pain of the Second Draft

I love to write novels. I find it exciting, liberating and challenging. I get to create worlds, characters and scenarios.

I hate writing the second draft of a novel.
It kills me.

The first draft was written in a flurry of excitement and passion. The words flowed from my brain to my fingers to the keyboard with magic and ease. Okay, I might have included a little hyperbole here. But on the whole, the first draft was fun to get down. The story is filled with promise ...

Until I read it. Except I can't read it without an interpreter. Sentences aren't even whole. I obviously thought of one line and came up with another idea halfway through. But did I delete any words? Oh no. I powered on. I have other sections where in capital letters I've written: DESCRIBE BUILDING or HAVE SOMETHING  HAPPEN. I thought this was going to be my masterpiece. Instead it's a jumble of words with plotholes and incomplete characters. Thankfully, there are hidden gems. I just have to root them out.

 So basically my second draft is rewriting my first.  I work on structure, create readable paragraphs and fill in the gaps. It's HARD WORK. At times, there are splurges of magic as I think, 'Aha - I've solved a plot hole,' or I find a section from my first draft that is actually Booker Prize winning.  

And now I am about to embark on my third draft. I have a fizz of excitement because I love this stage. This is when I make sure that my characters sound authentic and I've given them enough purpose. This is when I make sure there's enough conflict in each scene, that the world building is clear and that I've captured the right mood. This is when I make sure that the story in my head is being conveyed fully on paper. 

I just hope I worked hard enough on draft two, and that I don't get that crushing sense of doom as I realise the second draft isn't quite as good as I thought it was...

Tamsin Cooke
Author of The Scarlet Files Series and Stunt Double Series
Website: tamsincooke.co.uk
Twitter: @TamsinCooke1 


Nick Garlick said...

I find the 3rd draft is the hardest. The 2nd is for cleaning up the chaos of the 1st and making it all presentable, but it's usually the 3rd when I REALLY see bad dialogue, plot holes and extraneous words. And correcting them is draining. But it's also - hopefully - the draft when things really begin to click.
Great post, by the way.

Tamsin Cooke said...

Thanks Nick. I find it fascinating seeing how other writers work. Maybe it's because my 1st draft is so indecipherable, my 2nd draft is a pure slog.

Saviour Pirotta said...

Very interesting post. Like you, I love the first draft. I always think it's the best thing I've ever written. The second draft is the hardest for me. The third I enjoy, mostly because I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Becca McCallum said...

I love getting insights into how writers create their books, so this was a really interesting post. I find writing first drafts very hard because I'm constantly re-writing stuff in my head. I can't just let go and write without thinking about it! Then again, I quite like the editing process, so I have to just concentrate on creating something that can be edited.

Joan Lennon said...

Thanks Tamsin - it IS interesting the different things we find easy(ish) and hard. (And meanwhile, so much of the world out there thinks we just sit down and do it in a oner ...)