about writing and life and God

That second draft: is it progress?

on July 17, 2015

My friend, currently in hospital receiving a variety of treatments, said this morning that she felt she was taking two steps forward and three steps back. I know the feeling though my situation doesn’t approach hers in any way. (If you’re a pray-er please badger God re “Dorothy’s writer friend in hospital”. He’ll know who you mean.)

Anyway, I’m determinedly trying to revise the new novel. As of Wednesday, I had 51 second-draft pages printed out. Then pole-axed as usual by my weekly visit to my husband at the care home, I settled in the garden to lick my wounds and read. I’ve got the latest Nicola Upson, London Rain, for light reading, and Jordan E. Rosenfeld’s Make a Scene: Crafting a Powerful Story One Scene at a Time for ‘work’ reading.

Digital Image

Work in progress- and helper!

I confess what is perhaps a silly fear: that if I read anything too ‘heavy’ or detailed about the writing process while I’m in the middle of writing, I’ll become like the centipede who was asked how he managed to walk with so many legs and when he started to think about it ended up so overwhelmed, he fell over and couldn’t do it all! So the idea of looking at detailed analysis of how to ‘do’ scenes felt threatening.

But…instead of starting at the beginning (which is how I normally read books!), I scanned the contents page and discovered chapter 7 on Character Development and Motivation. I’d been feeling maybe I needed some help here so I got stuck in – and in moments had my notepad out and was scribbling as fast as I could descriptions of each of my main characters and what they want, what drives them. Job done, I turned to London Rain. (I’m enjoying it enormously.)

Then this morning when I went back to my novel, I knew I could not simply start where I had left off at page 52. I had to begin again at page 1 and I needed to create lots more dialogue, put in some description, set the scenes properly – now that I know my main characters so much better.

So I finish a fairly long day of significant redrafting and the last page of the print-out is only 22. No more than that. But… they are pages I think will stay the course. There’s a new honesty about them as the characters’ true colours shine through. I’ve got a new confidence about the book. (No doubt this will dent sooner than later!) And even though it feels as if I’ve taken those steps back, the actual sum result is progress. And strangely enough an added 2,320 words.


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