Monday, August 12, 2019

WIP Progress Report: The Never Ending Second Draft

 © Tony Campbell /

Nearly halfway through August already and I'm still not finished revising the second draft of my novel, Ghazal. Some days I think this draft is going to last the rest of my life. The worst part is I truly th0ught Ghazal was going to be my "easy" book, you know, the one that would be finished in like, two months, ready to submit. Ha.

On the bright(er) side, as of today I am exactly halfway through this current draft. I guess I could look at it as the proverbial "half full" or "half empty" glass, but either way I feel as if I've been trekking through knee-deep mud for weeks to get to this point. In other words, get me out of here.

One thing that's saving my sanity has been keeping a writer's log. Similar to when I began this second draft, I made a couple of false starts regarding what kind of log I should use, and what needed to go into it. But recently I discovered the perfect notebook. It's called FocusNotes. It's spiral-bound at the top and each page is divided into sections for different kinds of notes. 

I especially like the heading section on each page with the labels: Date, followed by: Purpose. This way I can easily find not only the day I made my notes, but why. This has proved invaluable as I keep making new connections between my characters and their current actions and past mistakes, discovering all kinds of themes and metaphors that are helping me to enhance and deepen the entire story. The downside of all this of course is that for every new connection I make, I then have to discard pages of irrelevant work.

Which is precisely why I'm not a fan of second drafts. First drafts are my passion: give me a great pen, a nice notebook, and a prompt or two, and I'm out of the starting gate in record time. There isn't anything about first drafts I don't like: meeting new characters, inventing strange plot lines, traveling on paper to exotic locales and mysterious dimensions; I can handle it. 

I feel pretty much the same way about third drafts, too. Word-smithing, fine tuning, polishing, making sure it all flows the way I want it to. But second drafts? Yuk. They are in my opinion the absolute worst

Besides log-keeping, some more of my survival strategies include:
  • Working to a timer in 20-mnute segments and staying completely focused during that time.
  • Rewarding myself at the end of each segment with a short peek at social media, a cup of tea or iced lemon water, a walk or a simple household task.
  • Working on only one chapter at a time until it is as finished as I can make it. Sometimes this means working on it for days and days, but I don't jump ahead.
  • If I get any new ideas for a particular chapter after I've declared it officially "second draft complete" I put all of my notes in my log, never on the manuscript. That way it doesn't get all scribbled over and messy-looking, things that could make the manuscript appear too confusing, or make me feel I'm going backward rather than working toward reaching The End.
  •  Taking serious sketching and art breaks every day. Sketching and free form watercolor painting are my favorite ways to step back, recharge, and gather my thoughts.  
  • On the days I have a little extra time, I do allow myself to freewrite for fifteen minutes a day in a small composition book. When I do this though, I don't read any of it and just close the book when I'm finished. Reading the pages will be my big reward for completing my second draft!
Some days I wish there was a way somebody else could take over this second draft stage, leaving me free to start a brand new first version of a brand new novel. I'll happily take over at draft three, and I'll even make lunch. For now, though, the idea of a helper will just have to be a 15-minute free write about cloning in my composition book. After that, it's back to the real world of second drafts with no one to write them but me. Drat. 

 Tip of the Day: Buy shoes. Seriously. Or art supplies, or a new book or journal. The only trick is you have to wait until you're finished with--you guessed it--your second draft! Until then, it's stay-in-youf-chair barefoot all the way through.