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Beyond the First Draft: One Revision or Multiple Passes?

Thursday, August 16, 2007

It’s no secret—I’m currently working on the second draft of Ransome’s Honor. There are three major issues that needed to be addressed: POV characters (as in, how many and when they’re introduced), better development of the romance between William and Julia, and word count.

In reading my crit partners’ wonderful comments on the last round of chapters (still early chapters), I realized—my second draft will not be a final manuscript. Because I need to focus so much on the structure of introducing one POV character ten chapters earlier, making another POV character into a secondary character in this one (and changing her relationship to two of the remaining POV characters), cutting one event at which a few important things happened/were said, etc., I’ve come to the decision that I can’t worry about word count right now—especially since I’m still writing new scenes to weave the story and characters together better.

This is also the first time I’ve had it critiqued. In the earliest version of the story (when I thought it was going to be a single novel), I did have a few chapters critiqued by school crit partners. But since I moved away from that direction, I wrote the entire thing without submitting it to anyone for review (though many did read it as I wrote it). Starting the second draft, I went through several versions of the first three chapters, writing a couple of new scenes, and then moving things around until characters were introduced in a way that really worked. In doing this, though, I’ve managed to add almost a full chapter—I’m pulling in elements from the old chapter eight into the new chapter nine. Granted, I know I’m getting rid of an event, so that will cut down on word count some, but I think one of the reasons I’ve been having so much trouble gearing up to work on revisions is because I knew I was failing in one of the areas I was supposed to be working on.

Finally, last night, I got it. I can’t worry about word count on this round. I have to focus on structure and story. I have to make sure that the right scenes are in the right place, told from the right POV, and I have to make sure that the romance storyline works and resonates with readers.

So, I’ve asked my critique partners to get out their highlighters—well, to use the highlight feature in Word when they crit my chapters going forward. I’ve asked them to highlight words/phrases/backstory, etc., that they feel can be eliminated to tighten the narrative without losing the tone or any information that is important for setting up what comes in books two and three. That way, when I finish the second draft, I’ll have a much easier time focusing on what needs to be done in the third draft: tightening, polishing, finalizing.

What about you? How many drafts do you need before you feel like you’ve arrived at a “polished” stage? (Notice, I didn’t say “final”—are they ever “final”?)

  1. Thursday, August 16, 2007 11:22 am

    I’m so impatient when it comes to editing my own stuff. I want to do a first draft, a readthrough with my own edits, then send it through critique, making the changes my brilliant crit partners point out, and call it done. So maybe you’d say three, but really two-ish: First and Critiqued.

    You have more patience and creativity than I do when it comes to editing/revising/rewriting. I’m always champing to get to the next project. I’d do well to take a lesson from you. 🙂

    Hope your back is feeling better!


  2. Thursday, August 16, 2007 11:30 am

    I don’t know that it’s patience . . . I love my story/characters so much, I don’t mind spending the extra time with them to make sure that it’s written the way I like it. Of course, this is only the second (of five completed) manuscript I’ve ever gone through revisions on. The first three never went beyond a first draft. So, I’m still relatively new to this whole process.

    As far as the back goes . . . I’m starting to see a little glow at the end of this long, dark tunnel of pain. I’m not a patient person, and after two weeks of almost-constant pain, I’m good and sick of waiting to get better! If only sitting at the computer were more comfortable, I’d knock out revisions to two or three chapters a night just to keep my mind off of it!


  3. Thursday, August 16, 2007 12:11 pm

    I’m on my third draft. It’s more a rewrite than revise. I thought when I started this draft it would be a polishing up what I had.

    That was not to be. Major changes have been made. So I’ll have at least a 4th draft which will be to polish this drastically rewritten 3rd draft. There might be a 5th one after that. Depends on the comments that come from the critique of the fourth draft…

    It’s been a much longer process than I thought though.


  4. Thursday, August 16, 2007 1:23 pm

    I’m finding it takes me about 3 drafts: first one to get the story down (it seems to change no matter how much I planned ahead of time.)This is where Betsy helps me figure out who’s who and whatnot. Second draft to set the structure, add new scenes or POVs, lengthen, and reorder the chapters as necessary–this is the stage where y’all see it. Third draft is implementing comments from crit buddies and polishing.

    Like Erica, I don’t have the patience to revise like you do. I’m anxious to explore a new story.

    Glad you’re getting better!



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