Friday, 22 January 2010

Coffee Break

Good morning (look, I made it this time!), and help yourself to a nice hot beverage of your choice! I just had a cheeky bacon sandwich too...

Looking down the roll call post, it seems that we're fairly evenly split between those of us who have finished a draft and want to rewrite and polish it this year, and those who are starting a new work, having completed one last year. I'm in the first camp, and thought it might be useful if we talk today about redrafting and recrafting.

When I was working on my first draft, I knew vaguely where I was going, but not how I was going to get there. This led to a few surprises along the way, and quite a few gaping holes and dead ends in my plot. Now I'm thinking about ways to fix them, but this is harder than I first thought. I'm oscillating between more lurid and exciting options (sex? adultery? drugs?! MURDER!) and the more mundane yet believable (building work? car breakdown? an argument over money?). I need to do some serious thinking to find a balance that works for my book and the story that I'm trying to tell. I also need to fix the fact that I somehow managed to end up with three key characters with the same name...

So, if you're also about to start Draft Two, how are you planning to go about this? What are the 'issues' you need to fix? Is your plot fine, but you need to work on structure? What about characters and dialogue?

If you've gone through this process before, what tips can you give the rest of us? What really helped you get from a wobbly first draft to a shiny finished product? What are the holes you come across, and how do you bridge them?

16 comments:

Flowerpot said...

I've just finished what I hope is my final edit (though I'm sure it won't be!) and I've had to work on some of the characters, and showing not telling. I've got 2 very good writing groups that help me with this and they are invaluable.

JJ Beattie said...

Thanks Ellie, I might join you in a bacon sarnie!

Oooh this is scary stuff as I'm about to embark on editing my first draft.

I had no idea how I was going to get to the end either but now that I’ve got there I reckon my next step is to plan! Yes, bonkers, I know but I can see the shape now and I have a rough idea of the shape I want it to be in.

There's so much flab in there at the moment, with repeated scenes, and a story line that fizzled out and a character that never really reappeared in the last third… so I'm going to get the index cards out, I think, and plan it.

I look forward to hearing what hints others have got for us.

Have a nice weekend everyone.

Rowan Coleman said...

the thing is you can't get to shiny lovely draft two without clunky awful draft one - so my top tip is just to keep going, even if it feels all wrong, because firstly when you back to it after a break it might not be as wrong as you thought and secondly you can edit what you have written - but you can't work in something you haven't. Never, never get stuck in a cul de sac trying to perfect one section before you move onto the next. If its not working just move on. Quite often you don't know the best way to begin a story until you have written the ending.

Fia said...

Great post Ellie,

My first novel was just a series of events. It's taken me ages to realise that each scene has build on the scene before, with the stakes rising all the time.

And to cut all dream, driving and dithering scenes.

Not saying any of this will work mind.

ChrisH said...

I feel like the Queen of Rewrites since TTT (formerly FTT) was rewritten 5 times! To be fair most of those were to do with length; 80K, 90K, 1010K, 100K then a different 90K... depending on who wanted what!

The best I advice for a 'plotting' rewrite is to buy and use Donald Maas's 'Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook' as recommended by our own Liz.

Debs said...

I pretty much rewrote my book last year and it helped to do flash cards and jot down what happened in each chapter.

I'm just starting a new book, so have a long way to go with this one before I can even think about redrafts.

Ellie said...

Ooh Chris, I am such a sucker for any advice that involves buying a book! I can feel an Amazon shop coming on...

Leatherdykeuk said...

Most of my re-writes are to tidy up clunky writing and to smooth out dead ends and clues that went nowhere (the gun in chapter three has to be used by chapter 24.

I'm always careful about names, though it took a beta reader to point out that Julia in book five was too close to Julie from book two.

Denise said...

I'm also climbing the editing mountain and have been reading (anything to put it off!) both the breakout novel book/workbook and the weekend novelist redrafts the novel. Both of these talk a lot about starting with your sub-plots and supporting characters, as first drafts tend to be heavy on the main character/story. I'm finding this really useful, because the more I develop my sub-plots the more chaos it seems to weave for my main character!

One thing I definitely need to work on is fleshing out my antagonist. She's about as substancial as a pantomime villain at the moment!

CC Devine said...

I'd love a bacon sarnie!

I find that I have to rework bits where too much telling is going on and also where I've forgotten to mention a minor character for chapters on end or not tied up a loose end. I used a thread plan/chart to keep a track of plot and character developments in each chapter so this helps me to spot certain terrible clangers.

sheepish said...

Like JJ I am about to start on the second draft and I AM DOING JUST ABOUT ANYTHING TO PUT IT OFF. And I also need to be a bit more analytical in my approach. i.e. start at the beginning and work to the end, not dart about as the ideas invade my brain. I also want to start novel two because I think I may become stir crazy if I can't get some of the new ideas that are clamouring to get out onto paper. There has already been some good advice so shall look forward to more top tips.

Lane said...

A cup of tea would be nice. Thanks Ellie.

My second draft is all about plot and trying to find it amongst all the detritus needing to be cut. It's also about finding some pace - something woefully lacking from the first draft.

Denise, you're right. It is a mountain:-)

L-Plate Author said...

I'm with Rowan. My first draft sometimes just has a scene completely made up of dialogue while I get the words out and move on. I hardly ever read back what I've written until right at the end. Even if I start a scene and it's not what I expected it to be, I carry on with it. There's always been a reason for it so far.

For me, the second draft is what makes it into a book. I read through from beginning to end and make copious notes. Then I get to with the edit, working on the plot mostly. It's the third draft where I look at the words, show not tell etc.

Don't be afraid. I love the second draft.

Jenn said...

My first drafts are always awful - more 'treatments' than novels. I try to plan, but on just finishing my final (sixth_) draft of novel number two, I'm learning that a novel must take me three years to write, and that is just the way it is. I wish was quicker, but I think the key for me is to take lots of breaks and thinking time between drafts, and let the ideas develop slowly. I'm a taker-outer rather than a putter-inner, so my first drafts are often far, far too long and need trimming down. Second drafts are usually much too small, the subsequent drafts are about developing setting, character and theme until it all hangs together. I write blind, never really knowing what it's about until I'm onto the second or third draft. It is fairly terrifying, and like I say, I wish I could plan better and find a neater method - but two novels later, this one seems to work for me.

HelenMHunt said...

I wrote my first draft with hardly any planning, and I'm regretting it now. I've left myself so much to do in the redrafting/rewriting and at the moment I feel like it will never end.

Because I've written a mystery (with romance thrown in) the plot is quite complicated, and it's a challenge to make sure it all hangs together and makes sense.

It's all a learning process though, and I think novel two can only be easier. I intend to plan this time.

Captain Black said...

Okay, better late than never, right? I guess a bacon sarnie is out of the question.

Here are a few ideas from an inexperienced one...

A possible mistake is trying to cram all the fixing, editing and rewriting into the second iteration of the project; draft two, if you like. I read somewhere that one author does no less than ten edits, each with a specific purpose in mind. This seems excessive but I do like the idea of having separate and targeted editing iterations. For example, one iteration could be for correcting the plot but nothing else. The next iteration could be to apply the "show don't tell" rule. The next could be for story pacing. And so on, you get the idea.

An advantage of this editing method is that your efforts are focussed and you can work from a list or plan, thereby reducing the likelihood of omitting something important. The work might also me more easily managed and timetabled this way. A disadvantage is that one editing goal might negatively interact with another. For example, pace-fixing might result in losing some of the characterisation. Perhaps one or two final general-purpose iterations would help.

At this point, it occurs to me that the above method is about as far away from "write, mail, repeat" as you can get. Every author's best method is going to be different, so I suppose everyone will have to experiment and see what works best for them.

One question I would be interested to know the answer to is: when do you know to stop editing? I've a few ideas of my own on that but I'd love to hear yours.

In the mean time, if anyone has any thoughts about how to edit a 125,000 word novel with over 100 named characters and a convoluted, viewpoint-hopping plot line, then I'm sure my co-author would be very grateful.