Emily Starts a Second Draft

I’m normally a great hater of editing. It’s my least favorite part of the writing process. And though I’m sure many writers will comment in agreement, I have actually met people who have said that editing is their favorite part. So, just in case, I’m clarifying that I detest it.

I’ve finished writing five novels. But in the past every time I’ve finished one I’ve pushed it to the side in favor of starting another writing project. But I’ve begun to realize how ridiculously harmful this is to my writing process, and I’ve started to understand how much I need to start trying harder if I want to ever achieve actual publication.

So what prompted this seemingly random decision? Well, there were a few different factors.

One: I took a fiction writing class and actually learned something about writing. And now I want to employ what I know and use it to make my past works better. It also forced me to actually try editing. And though I didn’t like it, I recognized the benefit on the final polished product.

Two: Three out of those five books I’ve finished were partially written in high school and are outdated in terms of my beliefs and my feelings about life, beyond just having some serious writing flaws. They contain a naiver and more confused version of myself that I no longer really like. They’re also pretty badly organized over all.

Three: Several people (I really should just say my mother here because it’s closer to the truth) have been bothering me about when I will get a book published or if I’ve even tried. And I don’t feel comfortable sending any works out without having done some serious reworking. So if I ever want to get people off my back on that, I’ll need to actually make an effort.

Four: Sad to say the person I’d cowritten four of those books with has long since moved past these novels into works that are more “mature”. And I’d have to agree with her that many of these are somewhat naive, but I think they’ve always held a lot more significance to me than to her. And…on top of that… we had a kind of messy falling out last winter which we never did anything to resolve…But even if we somehow managed to work around that, I have no reason to believe she’d ever want these stories to actually go anywhere, so I feel only minimal guilt in trying to rework these. It just saddens me to see the works that I spent so much time on having to go into a trashcan because of everything. And that’s why I’m going to rewrite this book.

I think I’m only going to have the energy to do one novel, because many of the others are more heavily influenced and would be harder to rework, and also because with the plot changes I’m making the other books likely wouldn’t be able to continue. But I want to work to make this one its own, to be a part of my healing process. And to be honest this was a huge part of my decision to finally bring back these old books of mine. To start processing everything that happened. A means of wiping a messy slate clean.  Of recognizing my works, my experiences, my old writing and remaking it. Its a way I can recognize my past rather than running from it. And it’s about reclaiming what is mine. And reclaiming has become a huge part of the book actually.

The story The Tale of the Rose (you can see the plot on my What’s in my Cup page) revolves around the duchess Katherine who becomes a pirate and struggles between living the life she loves, and living the life that is right for her people. It’s written at the end of her life looking back on all she has accomplished and her many adventures. Her stories, and those of her best friend, the famous adventurer and magician Night Hawk, have become the source of many ballads and legends and children’s bedtime stories. Her story is in fact quite the fairy tale-like in its plot with wicked stepmothers and mysterious pining princes and dark curses. But many of those accounts are actually wrong…

The new draft of the book revolves around retelling these dramatized and beautified stories. It involves reclaiming one’s own story and explaining life in its full messiness. It’s about moving past the childish innocence of bedtime stories into the real world of pain and heartbreak and suffering. And though I’m uncertain exactly how I’m going to employ this whole thing, I know I’d love to put these pieces together into my novel. At the moment I’m thinking I’ll include snippets of ballads and stories of Red Kate and Night Hawk in between the actual chapters. But I’m still working to make sure that will be effective to the book as a whole.

This is where I am now in my life. I’m moving into adulthood. I’m beginning to realize life is harder than I might have thought when I was young. My life isn’t following that little set formula of happily ever after I’d always expected. And it’s becoming time for me to reclaim my story for what it is. For its realness. For its messiness. For the fact that I am my own amazing self, with or without someone else to share that life with. My first version said something along the lines of “romance fulfills you and makes you the best you can be” my new version says “you are who you are, and no romance will ever fully complete you and until you understand your real self you can never expect someone else to.” And I think that’s incredibly important.

So what all am I going to be doing:

  1. Going through and reworking plot. Figuring out a basic sense of where the story is really going. Trying to reinstate a sense of what the book is about in general.
  2. Reworking some key characters so they fit my story better. Night Hawk in particular has been given a huge makeover, and I’m excited to see her come to a full fresh start.
  3. Outlining outlining outlining. I’m going to make a full working outline including all the things I’ve written and what I’m going to get rid of, rewrite, replace, or edit.
  4. Making a list of all sections/characters/plot points/countries/whatever else was contributed by my ex-cowriter and ensuring that these elements are removed so that the story can fully be my own.
  5. Starting to go through and doing those steps I’d listed earlier of deleting, rewriting, replacing, or editing sections.
  6. Whatever the heck else needs to be done. From here on out it’s a bit of a mystery. But I suppose if I ever do finish it will be sending manuscripts off next.

Well, I have three work in progress pieces right now that a few friends are reading. And they’d probably kill me if I stopped writing midway through. So this project might be slow in the works. But it’s still exciting for me that I can finally say I’ve started a second draft. There’s officially a “draft two” document saved on my computer. And I couldn’t be more thrilled.

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13 Comments

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13 responses to “Emily Starts a Second Draft

  1. Maybe you need to look at those older books as if they weren’t full term yet. At some point you could very well have a V8 moment and know just what to do to rework them. When they are closer to full term, that is. In the meantime you’ve got it handled , girl!

  2. I used to hate editing. Then I started peer critiquing at school and now I’m part of a local writers group. It’s great to critique others and get critiqued by them (face-to-face). Now I love editing, but I think that’s mostly because I learned how to edit and (for the most part) I know what I’m doing when I edit.
    Good luck to you with your novels! You’ll figure it out; especially now that you have a plan! 🙂

  3. Yep, editing is definitely the worst bit. Having to go over everything with a critical eye … and finding lots of thing wrong. Not the most enjoyable process but I find it does have its (very rare) good moments, when you finally figure out the solution to major plot issue for example. It can be quite satisfying and rewarding in its own way. Inspired by your dedication to working through it all though and making the commitment to work on your writing. I definitely need to take a leaf out of your book today and get focussed on my writing again. Your blog post came at the perfect time!

  4. Way to go!! It’s the hardest thing for me to start a second draft, because I always feel like I’ve worked so hard already and there’s so far to go. But it’s oh so satisfying to see a story get more polished and refined, whittled away into a cleaner and sharper firm. I’ve been undertaking a similar project recently, taking a novel I wrote in high school and shaping it with everything I’ve learned since those days, about writing and life and the world and everything. Best of luck with your second draft!

  5. The Tale of the Rose sounds AMAZING. If you ever need a beta reader/someone to bounce ideas off of… well, you know where to find me!!

  6. Jeremy

    I want to say that I quite like editing, but my actual writing projects beg to differ. Four first drafts, and only just started a second draft for one of them. Still I enjoy the process of editing. It’s not my favourite, but it does feel satisfying.

  7. chaptersinflux

    Good luck! Editing is hard, but really worthwhile. I find having to dig into the structure of the story and making everything line up and balance really helps me clarify how stories “work” and helps when you start the next one. Good luck!

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