Anticipating the second draft

NotebookWord count – 65,875

A quick update on the novel-in-progress. I’m a hairsbreadth from finishing Part 3 of The Dragons of Bloodrock. It feels like the big gasp before the final plunge. With the end (almost) in sight, my mind’s starting drifting back to the start. That means I’m beginning to build up the notes I’ll need for the second draft edit.

The notes are nothing more than a running list of points I know I need to address. I keep them as a set of bullet points at the end of the first draft MS. As new notes occur to me, I just add them to the list. Here’s a selection:

  • Initial sight of Bloodrock – more ruined
  • ‘Transmitter to God’ scene – Abalone speculates about skull’s powers, and relative power of charm at Bloodrock, above and below ground
  • Description/experience of leviathans killing dragons
  • Flora, fauna, faith
  • Pyx – early low opinion of himself and lonely
  • Tiquette recovers too fast

These notes won’t mean much to anyone else, but to me they’re critical. The first one’s self-explanatory: Bloodrock is a location that’s suffered a disaster. The disaster’s a major plot point. I’m conscious my early descriptions of the place are pretty bland, and certainly don’t evoke a ruined environment. So that needs fixing.

If the ‘transmitter to God’ reference is confusing you, just watch Raiders of the Lost Ark again. I have a MacGuffin that’s a little like the Ark of the Covenant, and I’m lacking an early scene that establishes its powers. In my head I’ve got that great exchange between Indy and Belloq in the Cairo bar. At the moment I’ve got nowhere to put it, but I know it won’t be difficult to find a place.

Leviathans and dragons? Well, the former are badass monsters, but right now I have no scene that demonstrates their badass-ness (is that a word?). In the spirit of ‘show don’t tell’ I need something more than dragons just talking about how badass they are. To put it simply, dragons have to die. Unlike the ‘transmitter to God’ scene, I have no idea where this is going to go.

‘Flora, fauna, faith’. I’m writing about an imaginary world, so background detail is important. Right now I feel it’s a bit thin. In the next draft I want to add a little more. It’s like sprinkling seasoning, and comes with the same danger: too much and you ruin the taste. No good weighing down a smooth-running story with too much unnecessary baggage.

I’ve put in the comment about Pyx because, in the last few scenes, he’s been doing things because the plot requires him to do them, not because he wants to. To stop the novel becoming too plot-driven, I want to clarify his motivations. The loneliness cue is something that’s only become apparent as I’ve written him – it wasn’t there in the outline. But I think it may be his most significant driving force. So that needs weaving in from page one.

Finally, the note about Tiquette is just a pacing thing. When she first appears, she’s been drugged. I’ve just realised she comes round too quick. Another easy fix, but an important one for credibility.

There are other notes, but you don’t want too many spoilers, do you? When I come to write the second draft – which is just a fancy way of saying ‘going back to the beginning and starting all over again’ – I’ll work through these notes one at a time. Depending on the issues I need to address, I may do individual drafts with only a single issue in mind. I do these most commonly with character and motivation issues – Pyx for example – and I think of them as ‘passes’. So I’ll do a draft that’s a ‘Pyx’ pass, one that’s an ‘Abalone’ draft, and so on. That means I’ll reread the whole MS with only that character in mind, so I can follow the single thread of his journey wholly from his point of view.

I know what you’re thinking: but that means you’ll have to reread the damn story over and over and over again! Yep, that’s the deal. Like they say, writing is rewriting. When I’m thoroughly sick of the thing, I’ll know I’m nearly done.

Until it’s time for the next draft.

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