A New Life in Seattle

A New Life in Seattle
August, 2018

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Your Pass to Party Between Drafts

After eight brutal weeks spent second-drafting my new mystery, I'm looking forward to a pass. What's the difference, you ask. Good question!

For most writers, the second draft--of a novel or story or play--is a brutal affair that looks something like this:

The process is seven times harder than digging a ditch with a spoon. It involves grappling with everything from typos to grammos to putrid turns of phrase to moronic plotting blunders. There's so much going on in the first draft that it would be unlikely for a second draft to involve any less. Think of it: in the first draft we're trying to get it all down--from plot line to pacing to characterization to setting to atmosphere to theme--and, as if all that weren't enough--we're trying those damned word things right too! When most writers face what they've got for a first draft, small wonder that their expressions turn out to be something like this:

And when they've finished the second draft, they're left feeling like this:

Still, if we don't have a passable reading copy yet, we will by the third or fourth draft. Now that most of the absolute garbage is gone, we can get down to the fine points of style. And the real magic can find its voice.

But much can be gained by taking a short working vacation which I call a 'pass'. In fact, much can be gained by taking quite a few of these, each with a different focus. After my own bloody second draft, I'm taking a pass, or a go-through, on the watch for blanks that I need to fill in or--well, anything that strikes my eye. The blanks may be things to be researched or settings requiring more details. And in this pass, I'll take care of as many as I cab. As for things that catch the eye, it's essential to relax, looking for things that stand out: inconsistencies, improbabilities, etc.

I'll also be mindful, in this pass, of the novel's proportions and pacing.

But I know the third draft will take its toll on me again. So I'll treat this first pass as a working vacation.

I may do five drafts of a novel, or six. But in between those drafts will be numerous quick passes: two or three for proofing...at least two to go over the timeline...two or three on the watch for any scene that needs more oomph...

It's your call for your own book. But try experimenting with a pass or two in between drafts. The results may float your boat. And also the boats of your reader.

1 comment:

  1. Sound advice, Reb. And it applies to all types of writing. It's one of the main things I stress in writing workshops in schools - leave as much time as possible between writing and editing and editing and proofing. Another is something I know you're also keen on - cutting.


Your comments are welcome. Just keep them civil, please.