So, today I finished the second draft of the Steampunk novel I wrote last July, Horology, and, boy, was it a roller-coaster month of reading through and tweaking. I already knew I was aiming to add 7-thousand words, which was surprisingly easy, judging by the numbers of additions I made.
However, my story is far from anywhere near complete, and, yeah, maybe I’ve learned a lesson or two.
Or not. Here’s some not-so-great (!) tips for dealing with second drafts, whatever the genre.
#1. To start with, let’s leave all the scenes as they are*, even those ones you’re worried about. Sure, they’re probably not perfect, but that’s a problem for future!you to deal with. As you read through, feel free to tweak your sentence structure and dialogue, but working to cut and add scenes is far too much work for a second draft.
*Unless you plan to do #9 and completely rewrite your novel into something new.
#2. Don’t bother marking down points you’ve noticed to change later – you will, of course, remember them when you stumble across the same phrase or bit on your third draft.
#3. Certainly don’t bother marking where this character is acting vapid. She may have turned out differently from what you expected (isn’t she meant to be the best friend?), but so what? Inconsistency makes her a rounded soul. Right?
#4. For that matter, you don’t need to double check a character’s motives in this scene. They’re humanoid – motives change with a click of the fingers. If your readers complain – bah, they don’t understand that the characters change, even so quickly!
#5. Speaking of characters (they’re the only things that matter, yeah?), you know that minor character with line in that chapter? Yeah, well, go ahead and keep them arbitrary. They don’t need a reason to be in your story. Plot and setting, too. Keep all of those places your character goes. I tell you: no reason!
#6. Feel free to rely on future!you for your ideas to get out of cliché or over-done scenes. Robots? Oh, yeah, robots are cool and they’re built to take over the world. Let’s leave thinking of an ‘original’ villain’s plot reveal to draft three, because draft two is about living in the moment with this mostly-amazing piece of work. *grin*
#7. It’s totally okay to forget half the characters in one scene. Just ‘cause they happen to be travelling with your narrator or MC, doesn’t mean they need a role or a witty line to make their presence known in a scene. Some characters are the quiet ones and maybe they’re not important. Let them be not important.
#8. In addition, the villain is allowed to roam and be the active character pushing the plot. It’s half their story, too. Your MC can just react to whatever the villain’s doing, go ahead.
#9. There’s no need to think ahead – each draft to its own, and you’ll reset your strategies for draft three and draft four and draft five… Your second draft is a new book to your first and third drafts, so make that book its own. (Some people call this the deconstructing approach to redrafting.)
#10. And, of course: don’t bother making notes concerning possible plot inconsistencies, even the little ones, like whether your Supporting Character has a rapier or a sword as his weapon. Because no one will notice the little things. Shape of sword does not matter when it comes to the final battle…nor does it matters whether the number of characters in the battle stays the same from shot to shot.
On a serious note, some people prefer to have a single focus when reading and editing a first draft. Some look for problematic characters; others for pacing and style problems, etc. Certainly, I focused on the general scenes and overarching plot this time through; whilst I tried to correct Cathy when she got angry at people for no sensible reason, I didn’t make the balance of her emotions in scenes my top priority to correct.
I certainly didn’t make simplifying my overall florid writing style a priority this time around, though that’s something I know needs improving, as does originality of some segments! Anyway, I’ve probably made all of the above mistakes even in this newest draft of this newest novel. It’s all right not to have a full plan for a second draft, but you do want to be able to help yourself out when it comes to later drafts. I’ve had to do so much work on my earlier novels, that a ‘sixth’ draft has more of the work of a third draft.
Happy writing 🙂