What is it about second drafts that can feel so much harder than first drafts?
For me, first drafts are “easier” because they are the puke or vomit draft of a book so you have a lot more freedom to write utter crap. I always feel like I can get away with a really bad sentence because I know I’m going to edit it later.
But the second draft, I actually have to re-write those crappy sentences into something I want to publish. And that’s not even the third, fourth or fifth draft where editing becomes even more precise.
My current work in progress is my Riser/Atlas mash-up book called Atlas Rising (I know, on the nose, but I swear the title matches up with the theme, it wasn’t me just trying to be clever lol!) I finished the first draft in September and I was thrilled.
Until I read it.
Then I was depressed.
Something was just… wrong. And I had no idea what. It felt like half the book was missing, yet the plot and character arcs were all there in perfect working order. So what was missing?
I brainstormed. I pulled out a few hairs. I had a lot of sleepless nights. What? What was wrong with this darn book?
I managed to hone it down to one of the two main characters. I felt like all the Chelsan chapters were solid, but Kala… she’s a character we haven’t seen in three hundred years, so shouldn’t it feel like it had been three hundred years?
Yes, yes it should. And yet… it didn’t.
So I wrote a bunch of short stories about some of the pivotal moments that had happened to her in the last three hundred years. And the strangest thing happened:
I liked the short stories more than I liked the book!
I wanted to put the short stories in the novel, but I was afraid it would feel out of place, especially if the other character, Chelsan, didn’t have any stories to pull on.
And that’s when it clicked.
Each chapter would have a flashback that would give a history to the upcoming chapter. I kept remembering my college screenwriting classes: show don’t tell. And so far since Kala was in the present, the only way I could let the reader know what had happened to her was to tell them about it. But if I could write a flashback before the chapter even started, the reader would be able to experience those events first hand. And the same went for Chelsan. Some of the things that had happened to her growing up are important to the story, so instead of her talking about it, I could actually show it.
So that’s what I’m doing now in my second draft: writing all the chapter openers. The book is twenty chapters long, so I still have a ways to go.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m very excited by the new direction the book is going, it’s just that…
I was finished!!
I had written THE END and now I have to write 30K to 50K more words. It’s like going on a road trip and the sign says 10 miles to Vegas and you’re all excited because you’re almost there, but the next time you look up and see a sign it says 110 miles to Vegas!
But I’m back on track now. I wrote another chapter opening today and I plan on writing one every day until I’m finished. Then draft number two will be all done!
And then comes draft three!
I'm a writer of YA fiction, fiction, comics, television and movies. I try to make all my stories full of jumbly goodness :-)