A couple of months ago now I delighted in completing the first draft of my novel. It was an overwhelming feeling in may ways, and I have since been working on my second draft.
We all know Hemingway’s famous quote: “The first draft of anything is shit.” I love that quote, but one I adore even more than that is from Shannon Hale. “I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.”
My first draft definitely involved a lot of shoveling, and I am now trying to build my sandcastle. This is my first time attempting a second draft of a full length novel, and I am only around 10,000 words in. However, I’ve already learned a lot and I wanted to share these points with you.
1. Second drafts add layers to the story
The first thing I learnt was how the second draft adds layers to the story. What had previously been quite dull, quick chapters were suddenly bursting with description, feeling and motive. It just confirms to me that your first draft can be relatively empty. The shell of the story is enough for the first draft, because you fill it out on the re-write. Which leads me onto the next point…
2. You’ll probably end up writing too much
For many writers, the first draft misses out a lot. As mentioned above, the first draft is for the shell of the story, the shovelling of the sand. In contrast, you could find yourself writing almost too much in the second draft. Personally, I am letting this happen. Even when I’m writing dialogue, descriptions, even whole chapters that I think will need cutting, I keep going. I think having all this extra detail will give me more to shape in future edits. I mean, there’s always the third draft, right?
3. You’ll deepen the story
You can add so much more in a second draft. Because the story is already written you don’t need to run away with your ideas and miss things out in your rush to tell the next chapter. Looking over your previously written words, you can take your time to deepen the story and improve the way you tell it.
4. You see the story differently
Whether you planned your novel meticulously or not at all, your characters will have surprised you along the way. Their decisions and outcomes may have changed throughout the writing process. As such, when you revisit the earlier chapters you may need to make changes to account for the new direction of the story. Writing a second draft is quite magical because this time you know the fate of your characters. This adds a completely new dimension to your story telling, and you begin to implement foreshadowing and clues.
Have you written a second draft of your novel? Perhaps you’re on your third, forth or more? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the process so please comment below.