… 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:
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?