Thursday, September 26, 2013

Second Drafts

 How a writer edits is perhaps as unique as the writer’s voice. Everybody has their own style. Mine is still a work in process. Despite my goal to write a speedy first draft and leave the edits for later, it seldom happens. Being compulsive, I rehash as I go along, unable to send chapters to my critique group until the work is in fine form.
When I begin the second draft, I look for obvious plot holes, redundancies, realism and, most of all, whether the story holds my interest. Most of the time it does, but the weaknesses clearly stand out. For me, the focus of a second draft is about plot and character. I look at the big picture, the overall story progression and save the small detail, such as word choice and sentence structure, for last.
With each chapter, I ask: What is the point of this scene?
In the first chapter, I consider whether the story has opened in the right spot. Has the tone and theme been established? Is the character likeable? Is the conflict interesting and can it sustain the story? Are the questions raised compelling enough to move the reader to the second chapter?  Does the chapter end with a hook? Knowing the importance of the first paragraph, I’ll come back to this at a later time and give it plenty of time and thought.  
With each successive chapter, I repeat the point of scene question. What I’m looking for is whether the scene is vital to the story. If it doesn’t impart necessary information, introduce a new character, add further conflict, or advance the story, then it goes.
Does the chapter drag? Is it focused? Perhaps an entire chapter is gratuitous and a shorter scene might do the job and keep the pace livelier. Maybe a brief summation will work. 
Does the chapter reveal too much or not enough? Does it make sense? Is it balanced well with action, internal narrative, description, dialogue and setting? Is the background information appropriate and kept to a minimum?  Is there a surprise—something unique and unexpected? In short, I’m searching for goal, motivation and conflict.
I like to resolve plot points first. A change in one scene or plot thread often changes scene elements and character behavior in later chapters or even earlier chapters. 
As to character, would the hero/heroine act/react in this manner? Is the behavior consistent with how I envisioned them? If the answer is no, then something needs to change to bring the story and character back into line. Plot drives the character. Character drives the plot.  Does the character display both strength and weakness? Are they complex, real, unique and sympathetic? As I near the last chapters, I know the character so much better and make notes to round out the character more in the third draft.  
Overall, do the scenes/chapters follow a logical time sequence? Are they told in the most effective POV?
In the closing chapters, I examine story resolution. Is the climax exciting and satisfying? Does the ending resonate emotionally? Have the characters accomplished their goals? Have they changed, and hopefully, for the better?  
I’m almost finished with the second draft of Amaryllis, and I’m so pleased with the story. I can’t wait to get started on the third draft. I’ll let you know what I learn next.
Joyce Proell is the Champagne Books author of Eliza and A Deadly Truth. A Burning Truth, the second book in the Cady Delafield series will be available, December, 2013.  Visit her website @  or


Julie Eberhart Painter said...

I like your style. Your method is close to my method, but more focused. Or maybe writing it all down focuses it more.

TK Toppin said...

Yep. I do that too.

Jody Vitek said...

As your critique partner, I can see you work diligently to have near clean chapters. You tell amazing stories and your process shows in the works you produce. My first draft is rough as rutted dirt road. I clean up the pages after my CP's read it and then there is always the third round preparing for submission. Great post! said...

It sounds like you've got a good procedure going for you. Mine seems to vary from story to story.

Naomi Stone said...

It sounds like you've got a good procedure going for you. Mine seems to vary from story to story.