Updated: Jul 24, 2020
Writing a first draft is a sometimes heady, sometimes frustrating, sometimes debilitating experience. There’s a lot to it, what with:
Coming up with the story premise in the first place
Fleshing out the story premise in a sustainable way
Supporting the story idea that stemmed from the story premise from start to finish… through chapter after chapter after chapter after chapter after chapter.
That’s some serious work, complete with creative inspirations, writer’s block and the emotional highs and lows they come with.
After you’re done with that, then you’re on to editing a first draft. Which is a sometimes horrifying, sometimes exhilarating, sometimes debilitating experience.
Then comes the second-draft editing phase. Which is technically the same as working on your third draft. Which is a sometimes horrifying, somethings exhilarating, sometimes debilitating experience.
It should. Because when it comes to editing a second draft, you’ve definitely done it all before.
As stated above, the second-draft editing phase is also the third-draft working-on phase. It’s rather like how your first birthday plus three months begins your second year of life.
Actually, that’s a really great way of looking at it. Writing your first draft is like a fetus forming in his or her mother’s womb. After he or she is born, it’s all about learning to live in the real world… step by tiny baby step.
Would you ever send a two-year-old out into the world all by himself? Of course not!
And you should never do that with an editorial second draft or a third writing draft either.
Whatever you want to call it, it’s still got a lot left to learn.
After you finish strengthening your narrative hook and looking for plot holes during the first-draft editing phase, you move on to the second-draft editing phase. Which is exactly like the first-draft editing phase, only a second time around.
Second drafts aren’t final drafts for the same reason that first drafts aren’t. As we’ve said before, when you’re working with a story of 70,000 words (or more) that you wrote over weeks or months (or more), there’s bound to be mistakes – enough so to take some work to catch.
So… get to work already. It’s as simple as that.
By getting to work, I mean starting from the beginning of the story and reading it through all over again.
When you find a mistake – and you're bound to find a bunch when editing a second draft – take a note from the firefighter’s safety guide, and stop, drop and roll.
Stop – You’ve got a problem. And the moment you recognize it is probably the best time to at least start fixing it.
Drop – Yes, you were the one who created that problem. Which is frustrating and/or embarrassing and/or debilitating. But drop all those emotions somewhere they won’t bleed out onto your second draft. You don’t have time for them right now.
Roll – So your manuscript took a swing at you. So what? Kick it right back! Roll with the punches, and tell the problem where to go and what to do with itself.
You can do all of that knowing you'll be back on fire soon enough... this time in a good way.
Editor’s Note: Read the next post on second-draft editing here.