Writing Wednesdays: How to deal with the second draft of your novel

Editing can be a bitch. In this post, I share some advice on how to deal with the second draft of your novel.

If you’re thinking about the second draft of your novel, that means you must’ve finished the first draft – congratulations!

Tackling the second draft can be kind of difficult. Where do you even start? What do you need to think about? Are you just looking for typos, or should you rewrite the ENTIRE thing because now you’re starting to second-guess everything you wrote the first time around?

You might like this post on editing your novel, or this guest Writing Wednesdays post by Olivia Levez on editing.

My first bit of advice, which I think is pretty crucial when you’re dealing with a second draft (or third, fourth, whatever), is that you only tackle the second draft after spending a while away from your book.

Be it a couple of weeks, a few months, whatever – just so long as you’ve had time to put it out of your mind, so that when you come back, you’re looking at it with fresh eyes.

It’s like if you write an essay at school, you can read it a billion times in a row but still not catch that you wrote ‘if’ instead of ‘of’ somewhere, because you know what you wanted it to say and what it’s supposed to say. You need to be your own second opinion here.

There are a few different things that I do when I’m looking at a second draft:

  • check for basic continuity things - did you character change hair colour at some point? Did the make of somebody’s dad’s car change? Make notes on paper or in a notebook somewhere. They’ll be messy, but they’ll help.
  • check your subplots and the minor storylines. Was someone’s sister sick? Check up on her a few chapters later, and a few chapters after that, instead of a courtesy ‘oh and she’s fine now’ line, but only if this relates to a significant character in your book. If that makes sense? Just make sure you’re tying up loose ends and not leaving any subplots you started hanging.
  • how’s the tone? Does your narrative keep to the same tone the whole way through? If yes, was this what you intended? If no - has your character developed and changed their tone the way you wanted, or do you need to adjust the tone somewhere? Sometimes, I start out with my protagonist having one tone, and by chapter three it’s changed for the rest of the book, so I choose to adapt the first tone to match the second.
  • TENSES. Check you’ve kept to the same tense. Same goes for writing in third/first person. This. Is. Very. Important.
  • think about your protagonist. Did you want them to develop significantly - if so, do you feel that they did throughout the course of the novel? Did you give them quirks and characteristics at some point that you never used again? Did you maybe give them a pet they loved that is mentioned once and never again? This kind of relates to my point on continuity, I know, but I wanted to reiterate.
  • Try looking at it from an outside point of view. If you’re building up to a dramatic reveal, have you dropped enough hints? Too many hints? Have you built up the drama enough?You know what you’d want your readers to be feeling – are you feeling that as you’re reading? If not, then look at how you’ve written those scenes, and try and build up the atmosphere you want.
  • And, of course, keep an eye out for typos and little rewrites that you just feel will improve your book. There might just be individual sentences here and there that you want to edit. Or there might be entire scenes.

In the original draft of The Kissing Booth, there was this whole thing with an earthquake and Elle having a miscarriage for a baby she didn’t even know she was pregnant with and it took me FOREVER to try and rewrite those parts. I kept feeling like it didn’t work, somehow. So I spent literally weeks trying to figure out how I could write it better – until I realised that none of it was working. It wasn’t just parts. It was the entire concept. So I got rid of half a dozen chapters. Just deleted them. And I felt so much better for it.

Sometimes, you need to grit your teeth and do it. Maybe you’ve got a couple of chapters that you’re really proud of, but they’re not working out somehow. Try deleting them. It might be hard, but you might realise after that it makes the book work much better, and you feel happier with it. Not always, but sometimes. And in those cases, you need to be willing to sacrifice a plot twist or a couple of chapters.

Similarly: filler chapters.

The Kissing Booth was originally bulked out with filler chapters that added nothing to the plot or the characters, but were just cute, nice scenes with anecdotes. And I didn’t need them all. I kept a few, but some of them just dragged the book out and really did nothing for it. So keep an eye for those, too.

How do you find the second draft of your novel? Do you struggle or embrace it? Comment below!


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