I can’t believe it’s already the end of September. My eldest daughter got married one month ago, and my twins have been back in school for three weeks.
Writing the second draft of my novel (which I’m calling the first draft since I’m calling the novel-like pile of words I completed my zero draft) is going much slower than I expected. I think this is because when I wrote that initial draft I did more “discovery” writing than I thought – the story crystalized as I wrote it.
It took me two-and-a-half weeks to write/rewrite the first 5000 words in which I introduce two of the three POV characters, their goal, the world, and foreshadow the third main character.
I got stuck when I started writing/rewriting the next chapter of the novel in which I introduce the third POV character, his goal, another part of the world, and the main villain. I realized I had no idea how this third hero would interact with the villain initially, before he is aware of their conflict. In my first/zero draft I worked out the what/why/how for the villain later, but not so much in the beginning.
My solution: Summarize the novel from the villain’s point of view.
That brought so much of the story into focus for me. It also clarified the motivations for another character… the one who betrays my main characters.
It’s Autumn! Teddy gets to help rake leaves.
I mentioned in my “Still here and blogging” post that I finished the zero draft of my novel on 5 June 2016. Let me just pause to relish that statement…
Woo-hoo! I finished the zero draft of my novel!
All the best writing advice says that it’s a good idea to let that zero draft cool off until the writer can muster enough objectivity for the next step which is editing the novel. (Cooled off. Check.)
The next step is to edit that roughly novel-shaped pile of words to the best of my ability. (The following step is recruiting beta readers and other writers for feedback/critique. Then more editing.)
But, where do I start? I had a hard time wrapping my head around the entire 115k words of novel draft. It’s tough to hold the whole slippery thing in my mind all at once. Do I start editing at the beginning? Do I jump around in the middle, using the notes I made to fix the sudden shifts in plot and character motivation and loads of other stuff? I haven’t really seen any writing advice about the nuts and bolts of digging in to a messy zero draft and turning it into a coherent first draft.
So, this is the approach I came up with for editing my zero draft:
First, I read through the zero draft and summarized everything as it is. Including that chapter I knew would have to be thrown out and rewritten the moment I finished it. Mistakes and all, even the first chapter that doesn’t work anymore now that I know exactly how the novel ends. My summary consists of about one sentence per section, so there’s a paragraph for each chapter.
My next step is to write a chapter-by-chapter summary for the novel’s next draft. This will serve as a detailed outline when I begin re-writing and give me a tool for holding the entire novel in my brain at the same time. So far, I’m up to chapter 4 of 18. I hope that the two outlines will serve as a map from where I am to where I want to go.
How do you handle the first revision of your zero-draft?
Barley Thresher we saw 17 July 2016 near Alchi, Leh district of Ladakh, India