Posted in Writing

The Second Draft

First is the worst, second is the… best?

As many of you know, I am currently working on the second draft of a Detective Florence novel. I hand-edited the first draft and now I’m re-typing it as the second draft.

What is a second draft?

Well, the second draft can mean many things to different people. It could be…

  • The first official edit of the first draft
  • The first official re-write of the first draft
  • The first realization that your novel is not in fact the next “greatest American” one

Second drafts exist (more or less) so that editors, agents, and publishers do not go insane. If writers were able to send out their first drafts then everyone in the world would be a published author. Also, the world would be filled with many terrible books.

Editing Second Drafts

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Some people see their second drafts as editing opportunities. By editing, I mean looking through the first draft with a magnifying glass searching for misplaced commas, spelling errors, and the occasional silly typo.

Not all people do this, but I have seen some work through their second drafts like this. I don’t completely agree with that because there are so many aspects about the novel that are going to change in later drafts. In other words, there will also be spelling and grammatical errors to search for. Why not look for them all at once on your final draft whether it’s the seventh draft or the 20th?

I mean, let’s be honest: you can find all the technical errors you want and polish the draft to make it absolutely perfect. However, when you read that fifth chapter you’ll most likely say to yourself, “Oops… plot hole!” or “Why does this character have blue eyes when he had brown eyes back in the first chapter?”

Rewriting Second Drafts

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In my opinion, rewriting second drafts get you farther than just simple editing. Rewriting means you look more in depth at the plot of the story:

–What questions need to be answered by the end of the novel?
–Do all the plot points connect well with one another?
–Overall, does the plot make sense? Is it realistic (as realistic as fiction goes)?

It means you look closer at the characters you’ve created:

–Does each personality stand out from the rest?
–Will my readers be able to picture each character uniquely?
–Does each character develop throughout the course of the novel?

Rewriting also means you look into the world you’ve created whether it’s made up…

–Will my readers feel as though they’ve visited such a unique, fictional world?
–Will they have the urge to visit this land?
–Is the world well thought-out and planned?

…Or whether it’s a true place:

–Have I done my research on this state/country?
–Will readers be impressed with my interpretation if they live/have visited this real life place?

A second draft should be your first attempt at perfecting the story as a whole. It should–to be blunt–drive you crazy.

The Honeymoon Phase is Over

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So, you’ve completed your first draft of your novel… yay! Go you! You’re one step closer to being a published author. That is, until you realize what exactly you’ve written.

As you write the first draft, you think to yourself, “This is fantastic! It’s my best work yet! Publishers are going to be all over this manuscript!”

It’s great to be positive and to string yourself along and all, but once you start working on that second draft that bubble pops. You feel incompetent, you feel as though you’ll never make it as a writer, you may even feel a bit depressed. You’ll say to yourself, “How in the world did I believe this novel was the absolute best?”

It’s normal to feel that way. In fact, it’s good to feel that way. By getting yourself out of the honeymoon phase, you become a real writer. You realize where you need to go from there. You realize what you have to do in order to make that “great first draft” become a better final draft.

The second draft of a novel is, in my opinion, the most crucial part of writing. Sure, writing a first draft is essential to getting started, but the second draft is truly where the work begins. Once you make it through the second draft, the rest of the drafts–whether there’s five or 50–seem easier than the one before it.

Once you make it through the second draft, your novel is finally on its way.

Related Articles:

What You Need To Know About Your Second Draft
How To Write A Second Draft
The Crash: Braving Your Second Draft

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Author:

Born and raised in Massachusetts, Rachel Poli is a writer and blogger. She has an associate’s degree in Early Childhood Education and a bachelor’s degree in English Studies. She enjoys writing young adult novels, middle-grade, and children’s picture books. She is currently working on her first novel.

19 thoughts on “The Second Draft

  1. This is so interesting to me. For years I’ve got stuck on first drafts but this year I’m making an effort to finish a second draft and it’s very stressful. Good to know I’m not the only one.

  2. I love how you equate the first draft to the honeymoon phase and the second draft as the deflation. Very accurate, and very precise! Now, when I get to the second draft stage, I can shout “DEFLATION!!” whilst I collapse on the ground, first draft papers scattered about.

    1. Thanks! It’s funny because we all know first drafts aren’t good, but once it’s over you think to yourself, “that actually went pretty well!” Then you look at the second draft and just want to throw it out the window.

      1. Wait… wouldn’t it be even more irresponsible to throw it out someone else’s window? Then instead of cleaning, you’d have to pay money to fix it, lol.

      2. I think the really irresponsible thing to do when breaking another person’s window would be to stick around and take credit. Though, by irresponsible, I might just mean the opposite.

  3. Ah I spent last year worrying about editing and barely got anything done. I started to get beta readers and it helped a lot but I really need to sit down and work through my edits. It’s definitely a painful process and I’m guilty of trying to correct grammar and typos along the way because they bother me, and I feel like I’m actually doing something. I read a lot of stuff on editing and I still haven’t pushed myself to get it done… Good luck!

    1. It’s still good to catch those typos here and there. I fix them when I come across them, too. However, you know more will come when you type up the next draft.

  4. Love, love, love this post, Rachel – especially the part about not driving agents crazy. (We drive ourselves crazy instead, I think – I do hope all those lovely agents are grateful for being saved from even more work than they already have to do! 😉 )

    If I may add something in – I’ve found that it’s always helpful to take a break before the first reread of your first draft, the longer the better. If you’re not on a deadline, I’ve seen breaks for as long as three months. Personally, I took two weeks before looking at Frozen Hearts for the first time. It was just the amount of distance I needed so that the words weren’t burned in my brain and I could read with more of an objective eye to find errors that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise. 🙂

    1. We’re writers, so we may already be crazy. 😉

      Ah, yes. I always take a break in between drafts. I waited a month after writing the first DF novel. You really need that break so you can look at it with fresh eyes and possible new ideas.

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