I’m setting off on an epic quest today – the second draft of my Dragon Eater trilogy. It got me thinking – how do other writers handle second drafts?
I usually do three drafts total. The first one is the get-it-all-on-the-page one.The second draft is the fix-all-the-broken-things-and-flesh-out-the-scenery one. And my third draft is the post-beta-clean-up.
As I’m writing the first draft, I’m constantly making notes as I go about story holes, thin descriptions, and characterization / motivation. Here are a few of them from my current project:
- Show more of the training field in use
- More about the hydro dam
- Create a card game with different suits that Raven is proficient at
- Add lightlamps to what’s in the box
- Need better names for the clans, the desert dwellers, and the highlanders. Resolve steader highlanders from cheff/clan highlanders
- Flesh out the “gods” religion.
Some fixes are easier than others. I start with those, either making the minor changes right away or placing a note at the appropriate part of the manuscript to deal with it when I get there.
Using [ ] for my notes makes them easy to find later:
[need to flesh out the religion a bit here]
Once I finish the easy ones, I make an action list of issues that need a more in-depth rework throughout the story. This may include strengthening or changing certain aspects of the characters, threading in certain plot elements, or fleshing out world-building elements. I try to keep this list down to a single page, and then bullet-point each item in large, bold type so I can quickly review it before each drafting session.
This is the heart of my second-draft work.
Finally, I get out my project tracking spreadsheet – it’s basically an Excel file, with columns for:
- Chapter #
- Scene #
- Characters in the scene
- Short description of the scene action
This is hugely helpful in synching up the plot when your characters wander away from one another, and also super handy when you need to create a synopsis of the story later on. Just paste the scene description into a word file and clean it up!
Then I dive in, smoothing out the language, adding world details, and strengthening the elements on my list.
It’s a time-intensive process, but if I do it right, the story comes out a lot stronger at the end, ready for my beta readers to rip it to shreds.
* cue pack of wild dogs howling here *
To my writer friends… what’s your second draft process?