Second Draft Void

First drafts are tough. Everyone knows that. You have to slog through it, and you don’t want to. You want to stop, or go back, or just take a month or ten to recoup your energy. But all the bloggers and vloggers and authors and experts agree that you just keep going, fix it later.

Then you hit The End.

“Celebrate,” they say. “But not too hard, haha, because here comes the edits…”

“Awesome!” you say. “So how do I do this?”

Then they mumble at you about passive voice and showing not telling. “But don’t line edit,” they say, waving a finger. “Fix the story first.”

“But my story is nonsensical,” you say. “The characters are unlikeable and I’m not sure if my psychological thriller should really be a historical comedy of errors for the young adult market.”

And they shrug. “You’ve just got to work it out. Come back when you have.”

And that’s when you realise that the first draft marathon was not really a marathon, but a jolly pie eating contest, and now you’re plummeting through a Wonderland void talking to yourself like Alice, and they’re all like the white rabbit, who can’t even stop to give you the time…

Because there is relatively little concrete advice out there about second drafts, especially after the deluge of inspirational, motivational information accompanying the first.

I suspect the difficulty with a second draft is that every writer, and every novel will have such wildly varying issues.

Some will be small: “Ooops, I forgot to kill my protagonist’s monkey in the second chapter, better add an extra scene…”

Some will be large: “Ooops, my whole novel is boring, the only characters I like are the ones with no purpose and I need to re-work or maybe cut the entire back-story that was my original premise and reason for writing the book in the first place.”

There are no set right or wrong ways to go about it, and even when I’m inspired to get on with it and turn my terrible story into something solid, it feels so overwhelming that I wonder if I should shelve it for a year or two. I could swot up on the craft, develop my voice and generally procrastinate learning how to overhaul a catastrophic, unplanned first draft. (Damn my need to write before I start to outline.)

But… I  feel need to get this bastard done with so I can write about druids, Vikings or dystopian prostitute warfare from a higher literary start-point. As you do.

So here’s some helpful/motivational advice I have managed to find on the net regarding second drafts:

A decent summary of the basic steps to follow;

Joanna Penn’s vlog on a first edit;

Chuck Wendig on making words not shitty.

Tomorrow I will have another crack at working out what to do with the mad tangle of words waiting to snare me back in. Honest…

Meanwhile, any tips or ideas are much appreciated!


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Mum, writer, gamer, geek. Trying to master the first two whilst squeezing in time for the latter.

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