Wednesday, March 07, 2012

The Second Draft Zone

Barbara here. So here I am, deep into the second draft of my next Inspector Green novel, when I suddenly think “Wait a minute, what day is it? Wednesday. Aack! My Type M blog day, and it’s already half over. Now that’s what I call really getting lost in the story!

This is a peculiar state of mind that seems to happen most frequently to me during second drafts. Therefore, in the absence of a stunningly exciting blog topic, and with the day half gone, I am going to write about this magic, second-draft writing zone. Perhaps others will relate to it, or perhaps I am just weird. Either is fine with me!

I am one of those “seat of the pants” writers who does not develop an outline and who has no idea where the story is going. Well, perhaps a vague idea. I do have some sense of what story I want to tell, what theme I am exploring, and perhaps a couple of key future scenes hovering in the back of my mind. But the story unfolds as I write and often changes courses quite drastically from the original route I had in mind. This is the reason I don’t outline – I would toss it out after a chapter or two when a more exciting direction occurred to me.

The benefits to this approach are an unpredictable and twisty story, with full opportunities for creativity, but the drawbacks, besides the terror of flying blind, are that as the story takes new twists, the bits that are already written usually need major rewrites so that the whole thing holds together. So second draft is far more than simple polishing, tidying up holes in logic and expanding on character or setting. Second draft is usually a major story repair. Whole sections need to be added or deleted. Characters whom I thought would be important turn out to be irrelevant, and must be chopped out of the story. Research that I hadn’t expected to need must be done and inserted into the story. The background and motivations of the characters may need to be changed.

In first draft, I am working scene by scene, conjuring up the story from nothingness. The creative effort and the emotional intensity that requires mean that I usually can only manage one scene a day. Once I reach the end of that scene, I close my notepad, pat myself on the back, and feel satisfied with my progress for the day. Tomorrow will be another scene, and so it goes until I reach the end. Second draft, however, is about the whole. I have a thousand repairs that all tie together and must be considered together, even if I tackle them one by one. There is no logical starting and ending point for each day. Instead of pure creativity, I have to call on both creativity and logic to repair and assemble the story. I get completely immersed in the story, and usually keep working for hours, always with one more small repair that should be made while I still remember it. I would not notice the time or the day at all, if I did not have some obligations to fulfill, such as meals, dog walks, sleep, etc.

And blogs. So that’s my excuse as to why this is late. I am curious as to whether other writers experience the same second draft “out-of-body” experience. Or am I just weird?


Charlotte Hinger said...

Barbara, it's exactly the way I operate. The first draft is my pink draft. Pink for Promise. The second is yellow. The Light is Beginning to Dawn.

Barbara Fradkin said...

Love the colours, Charlotte! I wonder if there are enough in the rainbow for the whole process. I expect I would need a brown between pink and yellow. Brown for....

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