For several weeks, I’ve been rewriting the second draft of my fourth Casey Holland novel. Second drafts have always been daunting for me because they inevitably involve adding chapters, or deleting/moving large chunks of text. Getting rid of superfluous characters and fleshing out the important ones are also part of the process, never mind chiseling out tightly written, grammatical correct paragraphs.
I tend to write the first draft straight through chronologically, and do a fair bit of editing on the opening chapters. When the book is finished, I put it away for two to four weeks, then read the whole thing straight through. By the end of that process, I have five to six full pages of notes about making changes. With this book, I found that I reached the climatic confrontation with the killer far too quickly and am now writing new chapters.
Rewriting this second draft isn’t happening in a chronological order. I’m actually working on three different places in the book. Each chapter is being critiqued by my writers’ group every couple of weeks, while I move ahead with penciled changes. Once the penciled changes are made I type them up. During the typing process, I also start more penciled changes in subsequent chapters. Due to deadlines, I soon won’t have time for chronological critiques, and since the group isn’t critiquing pacing or continuity, it doesn’t really matter which chapter I bring. Despite a reasonably organized system, the book feels like a jumbled mess right now, but then second drafts always do. It’s a painfully slow process, as I can easily spend two hours on just three pages.
I’m also editing draft number six in my third Casey book and, let me tell you, the process is much faster. I’m happy with the story, pacing, characters, and so forth, so all I need to do is cut unnecessary words. Happily, I can get through a dozen pages in ninety minutes.
I wish I could complete second drafts faster. I know what I’m supposed to do, and I have plenty of tips, articles, and books on editing, but it still takes a huge amount of time. I’m in awe of people who can create a polished book with only two or three drafts. It’s one of those goals I’m still striving for.