Monday, October 29, 2012

The First Draft's Done. Now What?

This weekend, I finished the first draft of a novel. First, YEAH! Because this is the hardest part of the process for me. Writing a novel is like going on a long journey. I've got some general directions, but only a few signposts on a very dimly lit path. Sometimes there may be a burst of light and I can see for several feet. Other times, I go the wrong way entirely and wind up in a swamp. In general, though, I'm inching my way along until I finally get to "the end."

And heave a big sigh of relief.

So now what?

Now I start the second draft. I print up the entire manuscript and begin re-reading, revising and editing as I go.

What do I think about? What am I looking for? Here are the main things:

Does what I call the emotional plot make sense? Is is believable that the main couple fall in love and have a lasting relationship by the end of the book, one that goes beyond mutual lust? Have I made it clear that they've come to respect and trust each other and that I've done so in a believable way?

Have I made every character's motivation clear? Are the motives believable?

Have I used the best point of view in every scene? My goal is to make every scene dramatic, exciting and interesting, so have I chosen the character whose POV ensures that? If not, I'll often strip the scene of all internal monologue, keeping the same dialogue and activity, and write it from another character's POV.

Are there plot dead ends? Have I started down a path that I later abandoned?

Do I have character dead ends, characters who started out to be somewhat important, only to become less so? Do I need them at all?

Do I have characters whose importance grew as I wrote the first draft? Do I need to flesh them out more, literally with description and figuratively with motive and personality traits?

Setting will always need work. My first drafts are, basically, plays - heavy on dialogue, some blocking, not much description. Should I keep the scene where it is and add more description, or is there a more fitting or more dramatic spot I could put my characters?

I look out for anachronisms. If a bit of dialogue or description sounds too modern to me, out it goes. When it comes to similies and metaphors, I try to use comparisons that would make sense to my characters. I'm also careful when it comes to time. My characters don't generally have watches or clocks, so I try to avoid using minutes or hours.

I'm always trying to make sure I've said things in the best, clearest way.

Once I've worked my way through the second draft, is the book done? Oh, heck no. It's on to the third draft for more polishing, and sometimes four or five, until I'm satisfied that the story is the best I can possibly make it.

This week, I'm taking some time off between drafts to get some other chores done. Taking a break can also help give me some necessary distance, so I'm approaching the work more as a reader. That way, hopefully, what would confuse the reader will be more obvious.

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