Sunday, 11 May 2014

Revision, the second draft, & lessons learned.

Image courtesy of Maliz Ong on
I've finished the read-through and note-taking for the first draft. Yay! It took 15 days in total, but I didn't do it in 15 consecutive days. I did one 5K section at a time, just as I did when I fast-drafted. I learned a lot from the process which I'd like to share here.

  1. Fast drafting WORKS. I wrote things into my story that I would never have thought of if I'd plotted it all out beforehand. A plot blueprint would have kept my focus in specific places, whereas the freedom that came from following Jami Gold's beatsheets and using the fast drafting method meant that my subconscious could direct the flow much more. Fast drafting was tough, but it was so worth it.

  2. I can read as many books as I like on how to revise and edit, but there's nothing more useful than doing an actual revision for myself. For one thing, I have finally got a feel for (as opposed to the knowledge of) how external plot arc and internal character arc fit together. It happened when I reached the aftermath of The Dark Night of the Soul where I'd focused only on inner arc and knew something was missing. With the help of my internal editor (it DOES have its uses!!), I recognised that the characters needed to take action to move the external plot forward. I could read all about this, but seeing it in my own work made the theory come to life.

  3. I've been too rigorous in discarding previous writings. I have about nine different versions of this story from its first incarnation in 2003 to the present 'first draft' in 2014. Each time I finished a version, I knew that the story wasn't right, and put the entire ms into a boxfile.

  4. Despite the fact that I read all about islands a year or so ago in Mary Carroll Moore's Your Book Starts Here, it never occurred to me until last week that in those boxfiles lay dozens of islands that I could use in my current incarnation of the story. Every draft I'd considered 'not good enough' when viewed as a whole contained many, many islands or smaller units (such as scenes, ideas, plot points, snippets) of 'just right for the story'. And I'd tossed them all out! Now that I've finished the read-through, it's time to resurrect those islands that fit this story and load them into my Scrivener project.

  5. Love lists are AMAZING tools! Now that I'm rethinking the initial set up for the story and how that impacts on the female protagonist's background and backstory, my love list (see this post) is reminding me just what it was that I loved about my story (and my heroine) so that I don't change things too much and turn it into a completely different story.

  6. I've been reading a chapter or so of The First 50 Pages by Jeff Gerke each time I sit down to work on the read-through and I've learned a lot about what a writer needs to accomplish. Last night, I bought Alicia Rasley's The Story Within Plot Guide for Novelists (The Story Within Booklet Series) and in the introduction I read something that has made me look at my draft in a whole new light, especially since it touches on the uneasiness I'd felt about certain aspects of my plot.

  7. Rasley advises writers to find the excitement within their story instead of grafting exciting elements onto the story that very likely don't fit. The opening of my story takes place in a reality modern readers recognise and understand and it then moves to an alternate reality that is very different. In "The First 50 Pages", Gerke tells us that we have to establish genre, so I've made this a lot more difficult to do, given that my story could be a contemporary YA or NA if one reads the start, and could be a fantasy if you browse through the middle. This could very well be a Big Problem.

In terms of what my next steps are to prepare for my second draft:

a) I need to have a chat with some writing buddies I hang out with in a Google+ group and get their thoughts and opinions on what I've found so far;
b) After that, I'll be trawling through boxfiles looking for my islands;
c) And then it's time to take my first draft notes and some blank index cards, and work through Lesson 2 of Susan Dennard's revision guidebook. (Scroll down the page a bit till you come to her revision process section.)

Busy, busy, busy!

Check out the other blogs taking the ROW80 challenge.


  1. I'm at the same stage with my WIP. I just finished the read-through and am about to start digging into revisions. I also have a tendency to put earlier drafts away when they might contain valuable material. I had a story in which I could never get the beginning right. I ended up going back to an earlier version and drawing inspiration from there.

    You raise some good points here!

    1. Thanks for dropping by, Denise.

      It was a lightbulb moment when I realised that there were things in those boxfiles that I could use. The relief! The joy! It'll be fun to go back and see those initial inspirations for this story and bring them back out into the light. :)

  2. Some great tips here! On the subject of islands: I always love it when I'm reading through my notebook and suddenly see how some of those random, unrelated ideas, images and bits of dialog I've been jotting down over the last couple of weeks fit together into a poem or story. It feels like finding treasure! I also agree 100%: nothing is better for my writing than practicing writing. It can be helpful to me to hear/read about others' experiences and philosophies, but until I can connect theory to what I'm doing, it doesn't amount to much more than a bunch of noise.

    Happy writing this week!

    1. Hi Sione! I hope your stay in Minneapolis is going great!

      Yes, you're so right about the random ideas that start slotting together to become a bigger, coherent whole. That's one reason why the fast drafting has worked so well for me, The beat sheets provide a minimal outline that helps me to keep on track plot-wise and time-wise, while the fast drafting itself allows me to bypass the inner editor so I don't get too rigid about sticking to the outline. That's when the random stuff emerges. And putting all those little random bits together has allowed me to glimpse what this story is about

      Writing is an amazing process. I love it. :)


Hi! I love reading new comments so thank you for sharing. I'll be sure to get back to you to continue the conversation. :)