I’ve set my manuscript aside for a couple of weeks and now it’s time to pick it back up and give it a good makeover. This first thing I discovered when perusing the first draft of my story is this; I have no idea what I’m doing.
I’m sitting there with my printed chapter in front of me, highlighters fanned out on the table, ready to do some serious note taking that will transform my story from the fat little caterpillar it is now to the butterfly I know it can be, when I realize I have no idea how to work such transformative magic.
I made it through the entire first-draft process by telling myself it didn’t matter how bad it was because I could fix it in the next draft. Second Draft was a magical place where the scribble scrabble of today became the hart-warming adventure of tomorrow. Jarring transitions between scenes? No problem. They’ll be smoothed over in the next draft. Don’t know what kind of uniforms the army is wearing? You’ll figure it out in the next draft. Don’t know what you are doing? You’ll know in the next draft.
Or maybe you won’t.
I’m right back to my first discovery. I have no idea what I’m doing.
I’ve never drafted a story this large before, so even though I have a general idea of what to do during this process, I am a bit lost at the technicalities of drafting a story. I know better then to do a line edit at this point in the process, but rest of what I should do or not do is a bit foggy.
Should I actually change anything, or just make notes on what should be changed? How do I keep track of the different types of changes that need to be made? Some changes will require brainstorming, like any world building that still has to be done. Some will require that I reference other chapters, like deciding whether I want that character to have that knife in the seventh chapter because in the forth, I had him lose it. Will I need to highlight these in different ways to keep track of the different types, or just lump them all together?
Am I making more work for myself by making notes on a printed version of the chapters when could do the drafting on Scrivener and change things as I find them?
Since my neat little row of highlighters weren’t jumping up and marking the pages for me, I decided that I needed to do a bit of experimenting to see what works.
First, I thought of the things I did know to do when starting a second draft.
Take a Break
Obviously, I know this one. I just came back from a nice little break, and now that I’ve had time to recharge and let my manuscript fade from memory a bit, I’m ready to get read it through with a fresh perspective. This first step in the drafting process was oh-so-hard. I just didn’t know what to do with all the extra time. I had to console myself with activities like reading, painting, and working on a short story I’ve had in my head for a while. This is, by far, the hardest part of the drafting process. A warning to all of you about to start the “break” faze of your novel: this faze my leave you feeling rested and relaxed. You’re little writer mind may not know what to do with that feeling after months of buzzing thoughts and panicky emotions.
Focus on the Big Things
At this point of the drafting process, it would be pointless to focus on the details. At this stage, there’s still a lot of rewriting and rearranging going on, so I could spend a lot of time fixing grammar and then end up deleting the whole paragraph anyway. Things like grammar and spelling can wait until farther drafts. This is when I focus on things like character development, plot, and pacing. I’ll be looking at how the story comes together as a whole and asking myself questions like,
“Does the way I explain this make sense, or do I need more detail?”
“Would this conversation be more entertaining if it took place in a different location?”
“Would this scene be less boring if I had one of the characters come out in their underwear?”
I’m not saying that I have a scene where one of my characters are in their underwear (I’m not saying I don’t either 😉 ). The point is, I’m still shaping the story, so it would be a waste to spend a lot of time on the technical aspect of things.
I’m looking at the story through a set of binoculars. I’ll get the magnifying glass later.
Now on to the experimenting!
Next week, I’ll tell you all how the experiment went. I’ll be deciding weather I like reading over my first draft in Scrivener or if I liked printing it out better. I’ll also be deciding how I’m going to keep track of changes I want to make. There are so many different methods people use. It’s hard to know which one is for me. I guess I’ll find out!
Before I end this post, I want to take a moment to thank all of my wonderful readers. You’ve all been so supportive, and your comments are so encouraging. Writing this thing is so much easier with you all beside me! 🙂
Until next time Epic Dreamers!