I think it’s fair to say that the second draft is the most fun you can possibly have during the writing process.
I’m sure there are as many ways to write a novel as there are personalities in the world, and I often wonder how my methods stack up against those of other authors, both successful and otherwise. The process by which I get a book finished tends to be divided into five loosely-delineated stages.
Stage 1: Stewing. This is the part where I just sit, stare out a window for hours, and think about how I want to the story to go, how I want it to feel, and what I want it to accomplish. To be honest, the window isn’t at all necessary. I spend plenty of time stewing with an Xbox360 controller in my hand, too.
Stage 2: Planning. Actual writing takes place here, though it’s mostly just taking down notes about characters and places, sketching out the layouts of important locations, and working out the finer details of the plot. I’ll probably end up going back and forth into Stage 1 a bit, too, since plot holes inevitably reveal themselves, which require a bit of brainstorming to fix.
Stage 3: First Draft. I find the first draft to be the hardest part of a book. I worry so much about the actual language I’m using that I often get stymied and can’t quite get myself working. The important thing here is just to get words on paper, whether they sound good or not.
Stage 4: Second Draft. Take the nasty, terrible-sounding first draft and add pretty to it. I spend a lot of time thinking about adjectives in draft two.
Stage 5: All Remaining Drafts. “Knight of the Flame” ended up taking seven full drafts to finish. Seven times, I had to go completely through the text, hammering out dents and polishing out the gross bits. I’d like to think book two will require fewer drafts. We’ll see how that goes.
The second draft is easily the best part of this process. The plot is worked out, the characters understood, and everybody’s actions are well-documented. It’s almost like reading over the account of a middle-school-aged historian as it explains what his/her research has turned up about these people (It’s especially like that if I haven’t looked over draft 1 for awhile).
Draft 2 is where I get to feel like a real writer, where I can think about sentence structure, about imagery and metaphor, where I read what the characters are doing and think, “so what does it smell like in that cave?” or “are there any distinctive sounds I should be letting the reader know about?” I just started the second draft of book 2’s prologue, and I keep having these little moments where I realize that while I’m watching one particular character, I’m particularly conscious of what his hands are doing. It’s not essential to the plot, but it’s a wonderful little detail that adds all kinds of flavor to the scene. It’s an absolutely wonderful place to be right now.
The cover of book 1 is progressing a slowly as ever, but it is progressing, nonetheless. I’m beginning to understand that graphic artists generally approach their work the same way I do. Lots of thinking, then trying, then erasing and trying again. At the moment, there’s a left arm that’s causing some trouble, and I’ve considered, on more than one occasion, just rewriting the character as an amputee so it’s not a problem anymore. I suppose I’ll have to post a scan or two, sooner or later, won’t I?
Happy Friday! I’ve got next week off of work, so maybe I’ll manage to get some more second draft-ing done.