Second Drafts


I’m still sticking to that self-imposed August 31, 11:59 p.m. 2014 deadline for a complete second draft of my novel. I have to say, everything is going fantastically well! I work on it for hours and hours on end. It’s all I can think about and, whenever I’m doing something else, I can’t wait to get back in there and…

Oh, who am I kidding? I hate second drafts. On first drafts I lose myself and forget time, intrigued by the mystery of where my story is going and what will happen to the characters. With the second draft, it’s:

Wait, wasn’t her shirt red back on page 47? [press “PgUp” key until I find the previous reference, which turns out to be p 39] Nope. It was blue like I said.

Am I overselling the snow in this scene? Are people going to get that it’s snowing? What’s another word for snow?

Oh crap. Last chapter was also “Chapter 5.” How did I end up with two chapter fives?

Hold on. Do they even have maple trees in Poland?

Really? The submarine ascended upward? Good thing it didn’t ascend sideways. That would mean the ocean got tipped over.

On second thought, I don’t think she would scream “Geronimo!” in this scene. She’s more of the “Vengeance is mine!” type.

And so on.

My big plan this weekend was to knock out large swaths of text, get ahead of the game, and then sit back and sip margaritas from a tiki glass whilst wearing a Hawaiian shirt and Bermuda shorts, surrounded by the cast of Sorority Babe Heat Wave 4, each of whom thinks it’s too hot in here. Instead I worked on my WiP for a collective total of 2 hours, and, despite an entire month passing since I finished draft one, I haven’t hit page 70 yet. I did vacuum a bit and give myself a haircut, and I went to the supermarket to buy stuff to pack for lunch. Which is, you know, something.

I’m still gonna hit that deadline, fickle muses be damned!

How about you? Do you find revision a drag?

48 responses to “Second Drafts

  • Yolanda M.

    August 31, 11:59 p.m LOL ! too much pressure for me Eric. I just hope to finish my first draft sometime this decade. Ok maybe not, maybe before end of this year. Yes there are always a gazillion other things to do when it comes to 2nd and 3rd drafts 😀 which is where I am with my short stories.

    • ericjbaker

      I think I’ve burned myself out on revisions in the past, sometimes doing as many as 30 drafts. Now I hate anything other than the first draft, because from there on, I’m not storytelling anymore. I’m ironing. I can never tell if the story is working or not, either.

      Gotta do it though. No one said it would be easy.

  • haydendlinder

    Hey Eric, I am actually looking at launching my first book on amazon in October and am going through revisions with my editor now. I am sorry to say that i am really enjoying it. Now that may be because the story is a fantasy world based on feudal Japan and she knows nothing about that so she has a lot of questions and answering those questions is allowing me to flesh out the story even more. Change conversations that sort of thing. So I am still having a blast. i’m sorry it’s sucking so bad for you but I do look forward to reading the book once your done.:)

    • ericjbaker

      You’re fortunate to have such a productive and inspiring relationship with your editor. Good luck on your revisions!

      The structure of my narrative is a bit unusual in that it allowed me to do the big revisions as I went along (I wrote it out of order and discovered where my missing scenes and character moments were during the initial drafting stage… It was a batty way to write, but somehow it made sense for me). So this second draft feels more like a third or fourth: Ironing out kinks, adding details, fixing clunky constructions, ensuring character consistency in acting and dialog. It sounds fun when I describe it, but I can only manage 45 minutes at a time. I’ll get there and it will have been worth it.

      • haydendlinder

        Well when you say it that way… Seriously, it does sound painful. I am sorry. But it also sounds like you put a lot of time into the material. I look forward to seeing it. What’s the subject matter?

        • ericjbaker

          I’m a perfectionist in my fiction, in the sense that every word has to be perfect (which means I’m never finished really). The subject matter is three tweenage girls trying to survive in a world suddenly absent of adults. Think Lord of the Flies on a global, apocalytic scale.

        • Arkenaten

          Hayden, you old god-botherer! How the Hell are you? 😉

        • haydendlinder

          Hey Ark, I don’t want to take up space on Eric’s blog to advertise my book so click my name and meet me at mine. I have a post I am putting up to answer your question.

  • uju

    Ain’t written nothing but reports all week, and editing that don’t give me a headache as much as the first draft does.

    I’m dreaming about this book already Eric 🙂

  • livelytwist

    Yay, go, go, go, Eric! I’m in your corner cheering.

    Everything you wrote resonates except “surrounded by the cast of Sorority Babe Heat Wave 4” 🙂 But some of the issues you mention, could they have been taken care of more readily by planning and outlining prior to writing 😉
    I don’t mind revising my work, it isn’t such a drag.

    • livelytwist

      Btw, love the photo 😀

    • ericjbaker

      Would ‘Fraternity Hunks Heat Wave 4’ suit your tastes better? 😉

      For clarity, the manuscript problems described above are fictitious examples for purposes of humor. I would never write a story with a submarine in it, and, as much as I would like to have a character scream “Vengeance is mine,” I shall not indulge that temptation.

      In seriousness, no amount of outlining eliminates the need for revision, and none of my revision relates to problems with story structure. It’s just those tedious line edits that are a necessary part of smoothing out the prose and maintaining character consistency. Up with pantsing!

      [And thanks for your continued support and encouragement. I hope not to disappoint]

  • Richard Leonard

    After reading the first paragraph I realised your choice of male cow excrement and sarcasm appear almost identical. had trouble figuring out wat it was.
    As for me, all my drafts blur into each other. Still fighting that bad habit!

  • Kevin Brennan

    Why am I picturing a chick in a red shirt on the deck of a newly ascended submarine, shouting, “Geronimo!”?

    What kind of insane book is this anyway?

    • ericjbaker

      You know, if I thought life was a big game and did everything for a lark and no other reason, I’d fill a bucket full of papers with words like “Purple shoes” and “Nuclear winter” and “the world’s shortest river” written on them. Then I’d shake the papers and pick a random 10 things. Those 10 things, no matter how disparate, would have to be used as the 10 main elements in my next novel.

      That’s kind of what i was going for in my post.

  • nrhatch

    My “first drafts” (sitting neglected and gathering dust) know what I think about tidying up story lines and ironing out plot holes. Good thing that the journey of writing means more than the destination publication to me. 😎

    Good luck sticking with your timetable.

  • Created by RCW

    Good luck, mate.

    My medium is predominantly screenplays, although I am currently working on the first draft of a novel…either way, revisions suck.

    I don’t necessarily mind the first-to-second draft transition…it’s a chance for me to mercilessly hack at superfluous text and fix ham-fisted dialogue that arose from a philosophy of “get it written, don’t get it right”.

    It’s the later rounds of revisions that drive me up the wick. Are the scenes even in the right order for the story? Is this character too on the nose? There has to be more to conflict than a brick bat in the back of the head! If I eliminated all of the character names, would I still know who was speaking? Is this all just a great steaming pile of…

    I’m fortunate to have a few talented friends who a) know how to construct a story and give great feedback, and b) don’t pull punches when stuff reads like second-hand toilet paper. I still have to do the work, but they at least help me see where the work is most urgently needed. I cannot credit them enough for any success that I am having.

    Again, best of luck, mate, to you and all of your readers going through similar tribulations. It’ll be worth it, no matter how remote that may seem at the moment.

    • ericjbaker

      Thanks! I would be a different (and weaker) writer without trusted advisors. Can’t live without them.

      I tend to write sparse, so, in revision, I must be careful not to flesh it out too much. My main thing is, will the reader get this? Is it too much or not enough? Also, my characters evolve a bit as I go, so I have to make sure they are true to themselves while still growing and living out their arcs. Writing fiction is a tricky business, isn’t it?

      Good luck with your screenplays and novel, and thank you for your insights.

  • Hollis Hildebrand-Mills

    Painting is like that. Constantly working so that one spot does not stand out more than another. It’s a battle. Knowing when to stop. Technical things like matching the same blue that was in acrylic in oil. Not having the color in oil. So keep the acrylic even though the rest is oil. Not having any groceries in the house. Resenting the computer, the art, the entire lack of focus. Yes I get it.

  • Arkenaten

    I F%^$$% hate rewrites.
    But believe me, better done than undone which will be the undoing of one.
    Wait til you have written a book, submitted it, got it accepted then discover a plot fault that even the publisher missed.

    That sort of thing seriously ages you and can make one physically ill with stress!

    I suspect that your novel will be tip top, you strike me as a bloke that will make sure all his submarines ascend upwards all the time!

    • ericjbaker

      If big wigs like Steven Spielberg and James Cameron can get away with major plot holes, we regular joes should be a bit of leeway, don’t you think.

      I hope I never write a book with a submarine in it. Unless it’s satire.

      • Arkenaten

        The irony is, the book I was referring to does have a submarine in it, I kid you not. Although there is no mention of it ascending upwards! 🙂
        When the publisher has done their thing, I’ll post a few pages!

  • Gwen Stephens

    I’m currently in first draft utopia, so I can’t quite relate at the moment. But I hear you, revisions can be excruciating. Just curious, at what point to you send your manuscripts to beta readers? After the second draft?

    • ericjbaker

      My process has changed quite a bit since I last wrote a full-length manuscript in 2009-10. I’m certainly not going to flog the life out of it like I do with my short stories before showing anyone. Fourth or fifth draft, I hope?

      Enjoy the creative high of your first draft. I’ll provide moral support if the time comes that you lose your mind on draft two.

  • diannegray

    I haven’t touched my WiP in a month because I’m still waiting to get the first draft back from the editor (not a good sign it is taking this long). I’ll start on the second draft when I have it back in my hands next week (hope against hope).
    In the meantime I’m ‘working on’ (yeah right!) two other WiPs.
    I love your revisions and realizations about the trees, red shirt, two chapter fives, etc. I was once editing for another author and found they had changed the name of a major character half way through the story – now that was very confusing! 😀

    • ericjbaker

      Eh, I’ll bet your editor got caught up with something. If it were a train wreck, you probably would have heard by now. Don’t editors know how much anxiety is caused by their silence?

      Those revision comments were fictitious for humorous purposes. I am far more put together as a writer than that. Since I wrote this novel out of order, I didn’t even bother with chapter names and numbers. I still haven’t. That’ll be a special project on its own. What I’m doing in draft two is chopping unnecessary words, finding the right beat and rhythm for the prose, ensuring character consistency, making sure the scene feels real to all five senses, and so on.

      Perhaps I should make a separate post to clarify. My dry humor seems to have missed the mark this time. 😎

  • Jill Weatherholt

    Ah…Misery, one of my favorites movies, Eric. I love to make my writing as tight as possible and that’s all I have to say about the revision process.
    Best of luck to you!

  • Janna G. Noelle

    I’ve never done a second draft of novel before (having yet to complete a first draft), but I tackle things like the colour of shirts and maple trees in Poland during the first draft. I’m way to OCD to put off something like that, plus I worry that moving forward with my story using incorrect information (e.g. including recurring maple tree symbolism) only to have to remove/rewrite it later. To me, that would feel like a huge and hugely annoying waste of time.

    But that’s just my process. I’ll be seeing soon enough how clean my first draft really is.

    • ericjbaker

      Those were silly exaggerations, naturally (I’m all about the silly examples). No one says “Vengeance is mine!” in anything I’ve ever written. I actually took that from a cartoon panel of a bunny rabbit with a sword, leaping through the air toward his nemesis, a full-sized human. I forget who drew it, but it made a rather humorous impression on me. I’ve also made jokes in the past about how I hate books with submarines.

      The only real “mistake” mistakes I’ve found are a couple of spazz outs on the date and time. The rest is, as I said a comment or two back, finding the beat and rhythm and making it real. Five-senses writing.

      You must be close to the end. How much longer do you have to go?

      • Janna G. Noelle

        Yes, of course; I was playing with your exaggerations. But I do try to answer as many of these types of questions as I go along rather than saving it for later like other writers do. I’m pretty persistent (and insistent) when I get a question in my head; I usually can’t let it go even if I wanted to. But particularly because I’m writing historical fiction, sometimes those answers matter in helping me form a more accurate mental picture of the era.

        As for how much longer until I’m finished, I’ve concluded that for all that I’m a good little outliner, I’m utter crap at determining how long takes to turn an outline into a story (both in terms of words and time). I’ve been “almost finished” since last December before I realized I still had enough story left for a whole other book, which I’m working on right now. For realsies this time, I’m almost finished; probably my last 50 pages. Problem is the speed at which I write the last 50 pages will likely be no faster than it took me to write the first 50 pages. Actually, I’ll probably be slower. Plus it’s summertime. Plus, I have three other non-writing related projects on the go.

        So the short answer to when I’ll be finished is “soon”.

        • ericjbaker

          I’m sure with historical fiction you really need to have the details hammered out ahead of time, unless you want to do a lot of revising. I’m feeling pretty good about the pace and the beat so far. at some point I’ll need a beta reader or two to tell me if I need more clarity in spots.

          Cripes. How the hell does one write a novel? It’s like trying to build a deck of cards in the back of a truck driving down the highway.

  • brickhousechick

    Oh, you had me going with the first paragraph. I was getting quite impressed and all. Then you got real which is refreshing. 🙂 I still admire your drive and resolve! Those Margaritas are a must.

    • ericjbaker

      Just save the margaritas until after! The last thing I need for “motivation” is tequila in my veins.

      You want to see me get really real, wait until the rejections start coming in. I’ll have to think quite hard about whether I want a public diary of that process. Sure, it might make everyone else feel good, but…

  • awkwardphobic

    Enjoyed this post! Revising a novel-in-progress for too long. A couple days ago I purchased Scrivener– to show myself how serious I’m getting about finishing things. My new fear is that I may be too stupid for Scrivener. I sailed through part one of their how to video. But in part 2 something went awry for me. Waiting for my Scrivener For Dummies book to arrive at my local bookstore. Wish you well with your book. You are very funny but also brilliant to give yourself a deadline.

    • ericjbaker

      I fear software in general. My dad still uses a typewriter, so I guess the apple and tree bit applies here.

      Thanks for the comment, and good luck with figuring out Scrivener. I hope it serves you well.

  • Dave

    Yes, Eric, I find the revision process a terrible drag. I was humming along on my last NaNoWriMo novel, got the first draft finished, then came to a screeching halt during the revision process. I don’t know why, exactly. It’s just like I hit a brick wall. Well, I’ve kept myself entertained writing other novels and short stories, but I sure would like to get back to that NaNoWriMo novel that felt so great when I originally wrote it. I still think it can be a great book … it just needs work, and that’s been the problem.

    Ok, thanks for letting me complain about it for a while 🙂

    • ericjbaker

      Anytime. I probably have more in common with you than anyone else who regularly reads this blog, so I wouldn’t be surprised if other writing-related experiences line up.

      I keep wanting this thing to be done and ready to query. The only tiny detail standing in the way is that I actually have to work on it for that to happen. My big plan is tomorrow. Damn it, Dave, I am revising 40 pages tomorrow. No excuses.

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