The Second Draft — Three Sources of Advice

Chapter31FinishedPosting has been light lately as I have struggled to finish Chapter 31.  The chapter is finally complete and ready for my writers’ group to review.  In addition, it’s been sent off to my first audience, my artist SYoshiko for her comments.  She gets to read everything first, flaws and all.

I’ve found that as I draw closer to the end of Western Watch’s first draft each of the chapters becomes more difficult to write.  I suspect this is because I’ve aware of several flaws in the first draft that will need to be fixed: plot lines that did not go anywhere; inconsistent characterization, character voice, imagery, etc, etc.  The first draft is only the start.

Which, of course, brings up the issue of precisely what does one do when writing the second draft.  My friend Mario, whose thoughts on writing I have posted here, sees the following progression:

  • First draft – splash the story down on paper
  • Second draft – fix plot issues and pacing
  • Third draft – Characterization and dialogue
  • Fourth draft – imagery
  • Fifth (if needed) – general tweaking and polishing

Your mileage may vary, and nothing says you can’t fix more than one major issue in a draft.  Of course much has been written on the second (and subsequent drafts).

Various authors I have come across have suggested printing the entire first draft, throwing it on a shelf somewhere and letting it “rest” for two or three weeks.  Only then, they say, should you sit down and read it from start to finish, to get a feel for what works and what needs fixing.

Here’s three that I like:


  • I came across Darcy Patterson’s Revision notes today and she has lots of good advice on writing the second (and subsequent drafts).  Good stuff.  It’s a PDF and well worth a read.
  • Scott Berkun writes non-fiction, but he has two great blog posts on writing second drafts that contain much that applies to fiction writing.  The first, How to Write a Second Draft, is an easy read with quick bullet points on what to look for when deciding what changes to make. You might call this tactical revisions tips.  The second is How to Revise a First Draft and contains “big picture” advice on revision strategy (as opposed to tactics).
  • Beginner’s Novel Tips has a blog article on second drafts — Writing a Second Draft of Your First Novel — which focuses on only three issues:  character establishment (showing, not telling the reader about character traits), point of view clarity (avoiding multiple points of view in a scene), and plot proportionality (the proper balance between dialogue, description, and action).  Another quick read and a lot value packed into it.

And now I have to get back to writing, otherwise I won’t be in a position to use any of the above resources!


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