When Miriam Edits…

When Miriam Edits…

… the world burns, her family runs out of teabags, and she spends an inordinate amount of time making writing playlists to get out of doing anything.

I don’t know how long you’ve been hanging around my blog but if it’s anything more than a couple of months, you’ll know that editing—or more specifically, rewriting—is something that I do all the time. If people could get degrees in things just by doing them a lot, then the nine separate drafts I wrote for Watching could probably count towards at least an MA. And you know, fair enough—I was young and inexperienced when I first started writing it, and it’s only because I’ve improved so much that I’ve been obliged to keep redrafting it.

Nevertheless, there has been a lot of redrafting, and while I don’t intend to do that number of redrafts to any other novel before I even start querying, I feel like I’m pretty experienced at writing slightly different versions of what is, essentially, the same book.

Actually, I don’t hate it as much as I used to. When I first started this writing malarkey, I assumed that editing and redrafting was the boring bit and that the most fun stuff was in the first draft. You know what? That was a lie.

First-drafting is NOT the fun bit

It has good moments. Hell, it all has good moments. That’s why we do this (or we’re masochists who are paying for something horrific that we did in a former life). First-drafting is where you get unexpected subplots and characters taking things in completely different directions and you muddle through and somehow those two characters ended up together when you were fairly sure at least one of them was straight but it doesn’t matter because you’re at the end.

It’s a good feeling.

But second drafts? Second drafts you get the characters who appear out of the woodwork and steal the show. Sometimes they’re minor characters you decided to bring out, but sometimes they’re new. They turn up and fiddle with your plot and usually make it better (or they get with the characters you thought were straight—DAMN IT, KAY). And what’s more, you no longer have quite so many plot holes and meandering purple prose, because you’re not trying to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible. Now you’re crafting.

(Note: I’m assuming that you write like I do.)

There’s just one thing.

To write a second draft, you need a first draft.

The scene you had in your first draft that was vaguely decent but needed considerable work to make it good is the one that comes into play here, and you will sit there polishing it and smiling that you wrote this scene. But then you scroll down a page in your first draft and find that the next scene was never written. Instead, you’ve got something akin to this:

thanks first draft

Thank you, 2011!Miriam.

Now you’re scuppered, because you’re not second-drafting any more. You are, once again, writing new material. And you want to know the secret?

You never stop first-drafting.

Or at least, not if you’re me. The ninth draft of Watching had stuff in it that I’d never seen before. A character who appeared in the third draft of Destroying then hung around to mess up large swathes of plot in book three, Returning, when I wrote the second draft of that (which was thirty thousand words longer than the first draft).

There is always new material!

But you get to refine it, and rewrite the old material, and hopefully by now you should know what the plot is doing. And this is GOOD. And this is fun.

And that’s basically why I’ve discovered that I kind of like redrafting. Because it’s got the fun bits of second-drafting (vaguely decent prose) with the fun bits of first-drafting (unexpected characters, plot twists and relationships—they are always my downfall) mixed in together. Sure, it still has the points where you kind of sit there thinking, “Well, this is abysmal, and I have no idea what happened to my plot,” and occasionally you find the dramatic chapter endings you wrote in the first draft that should have led to a plot point but didn’t and you curse your younger self with inventive passion, but that’s not the main thing.

REDRAFTING CAN BE FUN.

This post was basically me trying to find a more interesting way of informing you that I am currently writing a second draft of my 2011 novel, The Quiet Ones, and my younger self was incredibly unhelpful with the scenes she randomly left out. Did you guess that?

So, tell me about redrafting! Have you rewritten a book? Was it more or less fun than the first draft? Does your process sound anything like mine? Let me know!

21 thoughts on “When Miriam Edits…

  1. This is somewhat encouraging on the prelude to redrafting Ikarus, I have to say. Although I do NOT want any more unexpected side characters or screwy-uppy plot points. I feel like the first draft could pretend to be six if we assess its age on that criteria.

    That said, I still like first drafting best. I like making a mess and knowing I don’t have to fix it yet. My inner procrastinator likes being indulged.

  2. I’ve done at least four or five rewrites for a story I wrote in 2010 for NaNoWriMo: “Fantasya: A Giant Problem.” It’s the first book in a fantasy trilogy about unicorns. I’ve been querying for agents, but no luck so far. I don’t like editing much. Writing the first draft is so freeing and fun and relaxing (but not reading it and finding all of those horrible scenes that you thought were amazing). I like the feeling of finishing something. So when the first draft is done or the “final” draft, I always do a little dance and eat a bunch of chocolate. ;)

      1. Oh, yeah, I get blocked a TON when writing a first draft rather than a second or third draft (or something along those lines). I like having something to work with when rewriting, but the first drafts are still my favorite. :D

  3. I shall start redrafting soon, so this encouraged me. :)
    I sort of like first drafting. Other times I get really stressed, especially during a Nano. “AH THIS SCENE I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO AND I’VE GOT TO GET 1K” is what ends up happening. xP

  4. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten beyond a third draft on any longer stories, but I usually redraft my short stories over and over. I used to love first drafts but now it’s more fun later on, when everything comes together.

  5. Great post! My process is a lot like yours. I am on the fourth draft of a novel but it still feels like a first draft sometimes. The murky middle is where I often find myself wading around not quite sure which way to go and then I get stymied and frustrated! By the way, you taught me a new word: scuppered. Love it! Don’t know how I’ve missed it all these years. :)

    1. Scuppered is a brilliant word. I stopped using it for a long time and recently rediscovered it. It’s now my general alternative to ‘screwed’ whenever I’m in company who would prefer me to be polite :)

  6. I’m done with my first draft! It’s quite short. It simply says [insert award-winning prose here]. Now to edit. I feel your pain, Miriam.
    I never thought about the second draft being more fun than the first draft though. I always thought editing was the grueling part. But now I can see how editing could be more fun.

    1. I’m working on a first draft at the moment and let me tell you, I wish for all the world that I’d already written it and was just making it better. Words are hard.

What do you think? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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