I know everyone writes and revises differently, so take this post with a grain of salt. It is only based on my own limited experience.
For me, second drafts are the hardest and longest of all my drafts. Here’s the breakdown (not including time between drafts) for my first novel, written in 2007-08:
First draft: Ooh, shiny new! Intensely draining, but also exciting! Eight weeks.
Second draft: What was I thinking when I wrote this junk?! THREE MONTHS.
Third draft: The test readers are right; I need to make these changes. Four weeks.
Fourth draft: Yikes, how did I miss these problems before?! Two or three weeks.
Fifth draft: I am determined to delete every unnecessary word! One week.
(Note: now I realize that novel needs a sixth draft, in which I hope to delete huge chunks and add brand new chunks. Then the whole process will start over again. But that messes up my pathetic Draft Theory, so pretend I never mentioned it).
ANYWAY, I hope you see my point. I hate second drafts.
Yet at the same time, I love them! One of the best perks of writing—taking a good sentence and making it great. Or at the very least, taking a bad sentence and making it decent. The second draft is full of moments like that. It’s a chance to improve the entire story.
So why the hate? For a perfectionist like me, it is such a daunting, overwhelming task. Every time I sit down to fix a scene, I find ten more things I need to fix. In the first draft, I just write and write and write until I reach 1600 words a day or whatever the goal is. I make progress every day—WOOT! During the second draft, I feel like I’m constantly losing ground. One step forward, ten steps back. ARGH!
In December, I spent a lot of time analyzing my story, but no time making actual changes. I knew once I committed myself to jumping into the second draft, I would be neck deep in swamp goo for approximately three months. I would get tired and cranky and possibly lost. I did not want to make that jump.
Yet at the same time, I did want to! Because on the other side of that swamp—glorious feedback from critique partners. The highlight of my writing process.
I can procrastinate and complain and avoid the second draft like the plague, but all it does is waste precious time. I’m not passing up the chance to reach that third draft . . . so I might as well start swimming.
I’m certainly covered in gunk this week. I’ve been tackling big info dumps, deleting the worst of it and scattering the best of it. In the first draft, one of my characters gave a huge speech to answer all of Kari’s questions. How embarrassing. Bad, character, bad! When will you learn the rules of dialogue?!
I’m also finding some scenes that I left unfinished during the first draft. If I got stumped, usually I just skipped to the next scene to keep from losing momentum. Now I stumble on these broken scenes and there’s no escaping them! They cling to me until I think of a way to finish them. The second draft is unforgiving, strict, and ruthless, eager to challenge every word I wrote.
In short—I’m hating this second draft, but I’m loving the results! Each day is one day closer to feedback. For that, I will become Swamp Queen.
P.S. Book club on Wednesday! WOOT WOOT!