Home » Books » Editing Stage 2: The Second Draft

Editing Stage 2: The Second Draft

When I was in middle school and had to write papers for English, my teacher never really explained what a second draft was. To my understanding, based on her vague, abbreviated explanation, she wanted me to throw away what was already written and now that I had a better idea of how I wanted the paper/story to go, rewrite it.

I am completely serious. That is what I thought she wanted.

Did I ever mention I didn’t like this teacher very much?

And no, I wasn’t the only one who had this “understanding”. There were several of us and we all thought she was out of her mind if she actually expected us to throw it all away and start over. That was over a 250-word essay due each week. I could not even imagine throwing away something as long as a book and starting over now that you have a better idea of how it will all pan out.

So, if you’re a reader who hears an author say they’re working on their second draft, let me assure you, the majority (like 99.9999999999%) do not completely rewrite the entire thing unless the computer is destroyed and we must or the story turned out to be utter crap, in which case, it won’t even be the same story.

Instead, the second draft, is more “fixing” the story and characters, catching major flaws, inputting any changes that were noted previously but not implemented–this happens when you get to the second half and think, “Oh, that’s a great motive. I wish I would have thought of it sooner… Now, I’ll have to go back and make the first half match.” Typos are also caught and such things.

Basically, it’s like reading it where you know the end already and you want to check facts, eliminate conflicts within the story or others that might be in the same series, fill in details, eliminate those comment flags by changing this, rearranging that.

As I mentioned the other day in my preliminary edits, I read through all of the comments I’ve left myself and in this round I begin with an idea in the front of my mind what I need to be looking for in addition to what I find that needs to be addressed as I’m reading through.

In this round, I start at chapter one and read all the way through trying to make sure that we’re moving forward. That I don’t divulge details about this or that in chapter six only to have the characters to be completely oblivious to such developments in chapter ten.

This round of editing takes between three to five days. Why? Because this is where any extensive re-writes and major plot changes happen. Can some minor things be changed later if an editor or critique parter doesn’t think something goes, sure. But usually those re-writes aren’t as extensive as the ones in this round can be. Ironically, most people end up chopping off a few thousand words in this stage. Things that are frivolous or repeated too much, are often discarded. Sometimes, however, there can be a gain in word count as something is better explained or a scene is written in to help bridge two scenes together.

Some people are able to just sit and do all of this in a day. I used to do that. Just sit and only get up if I must. I learned early on that this method quickly becomes very overwhelming when all you do all day is read and fix your story. It also becomes frustrating and easier to get agitated with what’s going on and just let things go simply because getting finished is a priority and something trivial isn’t worth the time to remedy. This only leads to more rounds of edits so it’s really not very time-effective.

These days, how I do my edits in this round is to break them up. I still go in order of the book from Chapter One to the Epilogue, I don’t go out of order because I want to make sure things line up as the story progresses, but after each chapter, I go do something else. No matter if the chapter is four pages or fifteen, I do one chapter, then go work on something else for a bit and come back. Does it take longer to do this, yes, but I’ve found with the more books I’ve written that stepping away from the story for small periods of time like this helps keep me focused on the story and not getting overwhelmed each time I come back to start edits.

Here is a sample list that I made the other day:

Screen Shot 2013-04-18 at 10.57.31 AM

Ah, isn’t the life of a writer glamorous?

I did finish this morning with my second draft of The Officer and the Bostoner which is now in the hands of my husband who likes to give me a man’s perspective on the male characters. His edits are always interesting and I *should* be able to do a quick overview of what happens after I get those back on Friday.

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13 thoughts on “Editing Stage 2: The Second Draft

  1. I also thought when I was in jr. high that the second draft was a complete rewrite. So I always hand worte my first draft, and then typed my second draft. I even did that with my major research paper. Which means I hand wrote 28 pages at which my teacher told me to stop and then I went back and typed it up as my second draft, and then did all other edits from that draft.

    • I didn’t do drafts. I was just under the impression that that was what I was supposed to do. I just typed it out, then scanned it for typos and turned it in. I really wasn’t a very good student until the end of high school.

  2. First Draft? Second Draft? Didn’t you ever just write the paper the night before it was due? Or even the morning it was due? Forget about the drafts. How in the world was in advanced placement English classes throughout high school? No wonder I did so horribly in college English classes.

    • Yes, I did. More times than I can count. But then I hit my Junior year of high school and started to enjoy the 4.0 average, it was far more enjoyable to bring home an all A report card than one that ranged the alphabet.

      • I still don’t know how I managed A’s in English. I had a 4.0 in high school most semesters, except I had a very devastating junior year of high school and the first semester I barely passed most of my classes which plummeted my overall GPA. 4.0 was good but keep in mind the valedictorian of my graduating class had a 4.8 GPA. Advanced Placement classes were worth 5 points and you could take up to four “weighted” classes. I had two my Junior and Senior years, AP English and AP History my Junior year and AP English and AP Biology my Senior year, which helped with my other grades in algebra and French. I was an A/B student my whole life and hardly ever did homework. I was the one doing it the 5 minutes before class. College was a different story all together because I needed study skills and didn’t have any. I got my first D in college.

      • Don’t feel bad. I flunked college biology because the professor was really boring. I got my sleep in that class…LOL. I took history the next year instead and did much better.

    • I have done more then my fair share of writing papers right before they were due. I will always remember I turned in one paper for an English class that I literally had written the class period before, and when I got it back the teacher told me it was one of the best I had ever written. That comment really destoried a lot of my motivation to work on papers ahead of time. Of course that bit me in the but more then a few times in college with all the history papers I was expected to write.

  3. Ah. Complete rewrites. How I loath them. The words “lost manuscript” bring to mind two very specific stories of mine. The computer ate one of them. A friend lost another of them. I still miss those two stories. I have attempt to rewrite them, but I cannot keep from trying to duplicate the details I don’t recall well. One was written when I was about twelve or so, the other was when I was sixteen and seventeen.

    I have a question related to publishing (specifically yours) that I was wondering. I recall you said that you are self published. Based off what you’ve said, I’m assuming that there is no other publisher connected to you. I believe I also heard you say that you incorporated something to do with your publishing. When I was looking at your books recently on Amazon I noticed that the digital copies and the physical copies have different publishers listed and that there are two seperate publishers for both digital and physical copies. One of the ones for physical copies is CreateSpace, which I believe is Amazon’s book on demand service.

    I bet you are wondering if there is a question in there. The question is, how does publishing work for a self published author? And for a bonus question, why do you have four different publishers when you are the only publisher? I’m guessing the answer to the first question is a long one, so I don’t mind an abbreviated answer if you are willing to give one. I am pretty curious about the answer to the second one, though.

    • Marlena (heroine’s name in one of my short stories)–I can relate to lost manuscripts. Two publishers lost manuscripts of mine, and copies were lost in a fire. I’m thinking about re-creating one of them, but I have to see.

    • I’ve had to re-write more than I care to thanks to lost manuscripts or a fallen computer.

      So here’s the skinny:

      My company name is TALC Publishing, LLC. There’s a story behind the name, but that’s unimportant. So on some places where I publish–Apple, Kobo–this automatically comes up as the publisher because it is who the account is registered. This is for eBooks only. The “NS Publishing” name you see is used in places where they allow you to insert the publisher. A group of us who write similar books use it to help with branding.

      In 2012, I sold print rights to my first 7 books to Second Wind Publishing, LLC (a real company), so when they filled out the ISBN information, they get to claim my first seven books–print only. I decided not to sell rights to any more of my print books and when I made my last series into print, I could have used one of the ISBNs that I own and have my company’s name as the publisher, BUT Amazon will not allow books that come into CS with an ISBN to be put into the catalogue to go to Baker and Taylor–which supplies books to libraries, schools, and independent bookstores. I wanted my books in as many places as possible and available to anyone who wanted to order it so I had to take an ISBN assigned by them and have them named as my publisher in order to do that.

      As for question one, what do you mean how does it work? What do I do in order to get my work to you (the reader)?

  4. It is wrong, Rose, but it happened about ten years ago and, after having lots of w(h)ine and agonizing about it, I’m okay with it. Especially after so many other things happened to me and my parents that make losing a manuscript seem not so bad. And I can alays re-write because I actually remember the basic plot.

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