It’s almost the end of January and I’ve had 28 days to start work on my second draft of Project Pea. I’ve only started rewriting Chapter 3 tonight (there are currently 21 chapters), but the great thing is that I’ve gotten a lot more done than just actually writing more content.
Before I even started thinking about rewriting anything, I did a lot of thinking. I scribbled some random notes down in my notebook as thoughts came to me. I went on walks for hours and just thought about how I could improve the characters and make a more cohesive plot. As a “fly by the seat of your pants” writer, my first draft is always really rough and not everything makes sense as I write it down. But now, as I begin my second draft, it’s my chance to go back and piece everything together. I was recently talking to a friend about writing and she was saying that she liked writing the second draft so much better than the first because it was like putting puzzle pieces together. With the first draft, you’re literally creating the puzzle pieces!
I’ve found that to be true as well. Once I have the basic foundation for my story, even if it’s really sloppy, it still gives me something to work with. It gives me characters to play with and plot points to shift around. It took me a little while to begin to organise the changes I needed to make, but there was one resource I had that helped a lot.
The First 50 Pages (paid link) by Jeff Gerke has been a huge help in planning my second draft. I’m about halfway through the book because I’m reading as I’m writing and planning, but it’s already helped me to think more critically about the beginning of my novel. The book itself is expensive – I found my copy at a used book warehouse, luckily – but if you’re wanting to know what publishers are looking for and get some great direction on how to write a stellar first 50 pages, it’s pretty much a must-have. It’s one of the most helpful writing books I’ve ever read!
As for the actual writing part of the second draft, it’s going much better than the first. In my first draft, the beginning dragged. It was much too long as I really tried to drive home the “normal world.” The big problem that forces the main character to leave her normal life didn’t even happen until about 40-50 pages in. Going into the second draft I knew that shortening the beginning was one of my main goals, but it proved to be a lot easier than I’d originally thought. Once I started thinking about it, a lot of the things I’d put in the beginning were completely unnecessary. Why did my MC break her finger in the first chapter? It was important at one point, but the plot had moved on since then. Why was there a whole chapter in between the start of the main problem and the climax that pushes the MC into her adventure? Who knows?
Actually, I do know. The biggest change I made to the beginning of my story was timing (which, as I talked about in this post, is one of the most common fixes in my stories). Originally, the story began with my MC and her sister starting a new college semester. I had to spend all this time talking about them going to their new classes, the younger sister becoming adjusted to college life, etc. As I began the second draft, I decided to start the book in the middle of the college semester instead, and whaddya know, it works so much better! I can do a lot more showing rather than telling, and all of the unnecessary stuff I wrote before has been completely thrown out the window by default. (Though, as a side note, I never truly delete anything I write in the first draft. I move it to a different document just in case it comes in handy later!)
It just goes to show you, as I’ve said before, that timing is everything. Just shifting the beginning of the book that smallest bit has made the world of difference in my second draft. Chapter 3 is where the bomb drops into the MC’s normal world, about 30 pages in. I can’t wait to write this scene in a brand new setting, so that’s all on my draft update for now!