I’ve been working for a full year now and still haven’t finished the second draft of my UF book. Let’s just say it’s been a steep learning curve, and various crap happened throughout the year that didn’t make it any easier.
But – and there is a silver lining here – I’ve learned a lot. Just like a first draft, you kinda have to figure out a process for second and later drafts by doing it. Otherwise you’re flailing and wasting time and letting the voice of doubt sink its claws deeper into you….
I know, I’ve been there. I still flail, waste time, and want to burn the scene I’m trying to fix at least once a week. I don’t, though. I cut the words, re-write them over and over if I have to, until they make more sense.
Surely drafts three and on will be much, much easier.
In any case, I’m sure there are tons of you out there looking at your NaNo or some other WIP first draft, positively cringing (or crying) from all the problems you see. Good news! NaNoEdMo is coming up in less than two weeks! Like NaNoWriMo, there’s a community undertaking the journey with you of trying to fix those words. Instead of 50,000 words, the goal is 50 hours of editing. That’s a little over 1.5 hours per day. Sounds totally do-able, right? Head on over to the website and sign up!
Having said that, I really, really don’t suggest diving in without some kind of plan.By that I mean jumping in feet first without looking over the first draft, thinking about what needs to change, characters that need to be moved, making notes, etc. It’s overwhelming. But if you’re looking for a place to start, this is what I tried:
- Let the book sit (hopefully you’ve let it rest for a few weeks, if not a month, since finishing the draft)
- Highlighted sections in different colors based on what changes were needed (green for setting, orange for plot, etc.)
- Wrote each scene on a notecard
- Made an outline for what actually happens in the first draft (even if you went by an outline while writing, it may be good to make this just to catch any differences that cropped up by accident)
- Made an outline for draft two based on what needed to be moved/changed
- Came up with an arbitrary date to finish the draft
What actually worked:
- Outlines — these have made the biggest improvement, I think. Every time I changed something or got feedback from an alpha reader/critique partner, I readjusted the outline and was able to stay on track much better.
- Scene cards — these helped to an extent. They’re nice if you want to lay them all out and see what happens when you move pieces around, but for me, there was too much information on them. My scenes were too big, so about a quarter through I stopped using them as my guideline.
- Alpha/Beta reader — to be fair I didn’t have a reader/crit partner until about halfway through the year, but I highly recommend having someone read the revised/rewritten chapters as you get through one.
What didn’t work:
- Highlighting the first draft — there was simply too much that needed to be reworked. Since it’s first person POV and the main character didn’t cooperate very well in the first draft, a lot of it couldn’t be salvaged word-for-word.
- Word/scene goals/timeline — hahahaha. I have broken pretty much every one of these I made. I underestimated how long it would take to rewrite everything, because my brain isn’t in first-draft-vomit-mode. It’s in make-everything-pretty mode. Luckily I’m not on a contracted deadline so I can take as much time as you want.
- If it takes you a day to fix 50 – 100 – 1000 words, THAT’S OKAY. You don’t have to try to do a scene a day.
I also read quite a number of articles on rewriting, editing, the second draft, etc. Many, many of them will be much more helpful than me, both in terms of process and motivation/inspiration. The edit caves are deep, dark, and full of hidden bears that will gobble you up if they get the chance… take a torch and a shotgun with you:
Susan Dennard has a treasure trove of writing posts, from planning a draft to fixing one.
Delilah Dawson, whom you should follow on Twitter, often takes questions and runs through scenarios like starting a short story or what her process is for revisions. Might be a little difficult to find the edit/revision posts but worth a look.
You can also look up Rachel Aaron (Bach), Kristin Lamb, and Holly Lisle to fill your brain with more revision gooey-ness. There are so, so many others too.
Catch you all at NaNoEdMo!