Monday, August 17, 2015
Second Thoughts On Second Drafts
I'd gotten that part down well enough that I no longer anguished even when I knew something wasn't working in my first 'pass' through a novel. Let's raise our cups to Hemingway who put it with more pith:
At the same time, let's remember that many pros refer to the first draft as the Vomit Draft:
And Ernie Mears has given what I regard as the best definition:
vomit draft: (n) 1. writing draft in which the author spews words on the page in a chaotic outpouring of ideas, characters, plot, passion, and quite possibly last week’s dinner; 2. the art form of funneling the maelstrom of inspiration in one’s brain into a porcelain throne of paper; 3. in which a writer commits a story to paper for the first time, therein relating it to herself. synonyms: first draft, rough draft. antonyms: polished piece, final draft, completed manuscript.
That said, at the very least, we've got ourselves a book--right? Wrong. Whether you see it as vomit or as very raw material, you have something that may become very important...with work. But what you don't have is a book.
Well, okay, okay, okay. But, hey, at least the hard part's done--right? Wrong. The second draft, for me, has always been the hardest. Daily, I have to face the reeking stylistic mess. Daily, I see again that almost every page contains twice the needed word count. The pacing is off. I'm telling and not showing. Characters still aren't developed enough. The fact is, almost everything that could go wrong with a good novel lies before the writer in a reeking puddle of vomit. And this is an excellent time to reflect: with every pass through a novel it grows harder to spot what is wrong--try to spot the Biggies now.
Still, something cool happened in the second draft of Caesar's Ghost, my WIP. I abandoned all thoughts of perfection in this pass. I squeezed every drop of defeatism and shame from my soul. If the second draft still sucked, so what? So what if took me three more drafts...or five? No one would see the book until I ready to show it. So why not enjoy this pass, working with humbler goals:
--Work calmly, daily, without stress--from a hard copy of the text.
--Cut only verbiage that is obviously excessive.
--Focus on pacing, logistics and clarity.
--Don't think about stylistic razzmatazz. But do accomplish in this pass a professional level of prose.
--Make notes for any challenge that can't be resolved at this time.
Well, okay, okay. But then the second draft's done. And, relatively speaking, the third draft should be a cake walk--right? Maybe right...but maybe wrong. Depends on what your values are and how good a writer you hope to become.
Three drafts will be enough for some and one too many for others. Still others may need four or five. But if you do decide on a third, let the third be extra-special. With all that has been cleared away, you may spy new opportunities--for a plot twist or a character or a turn of phrase. Nothing is final until you sign off. So allow yourself at least one more pass...with a world of potential before you.