Second draft time! Yah! Some people hate it but I must say it is fast becoming my favourite writing activity. Planning can be fun but, for me at least, it is a rather boring but necessary evil to help me avoid the trap of “wandering into the marshes” as Fiona Macintosh puts it. Doing the first draft requires pure creativity. It takes hours of solid concentration, uninterrupted dedication and lots and lots of typing.
But second draft is where I find I can relax into making the story zing. I exchange boring words for ones that better evoke the mood, I create settings that will transport the reader to another time and place, I add another dimension to a character to make you love (or hate) them even more.
And this time round I am making myself use the “read out loud” technique. It does make a difference. For an abysmal proof reader such as myself it helps me hear what I can't see but more importantly it catches the rhythm of the scene, I hear repetitions and notice when a sentence is too long or a paragraph too convoluted. But best of all it brings joy when you hear out loud that phrase that makes the writing come to life with a phrase that is yours and yours alone.
Second draft is also the time to do some of the yet-to-do research that I flag in the first draft. But even in second draft, research can become a distraction and, unless it is vital to the plot or I can find it within ten minutes, it stays as a comment out to the side; comments such as “Check this date” “what would her hat be made of” how did they get the chess pieces from Uig to Stornaway in 1830- boat of horseback?’. I then go back and do the remaining research in a block once the second draft is completed.
And because my research trip to Lewis is now booked I am also now using the second draft to highlight in purple the research and detail that I can only get once there. Comments such as “ask at the Stornaway Library” “walk along this beach” “ what are the prevailing winds in June?”, “what does the seaweed look like?” are scattered throughout and by the time I get to Lewis in June I will have a long list of things to do. I can’t wait to begin ticking them off and getting this delicious details into the novel.
So as you see, for me second draft is great fun! What do you think fellow writers? What techniques do you use?
I want to tell you how my writing life is filled with coincidences that can only be described as spooky! In a A previous blog coincidence-or-fate-when-fiction-meets-reality.html I told how I wrote an actual distant relative of mine into the fiction. This time the coincidence came to find me on facebook.
With a research trip to the Isle of Lewis in Scotland’s far west now booked, I have begun the second draft of my novel in progress about the Lewis Chessmen (working title A Hebridean Mystery). Pinned to my story board are two pictures. One of a late 1800’s Scottish islander woman (see right) that I have used as a visual aid for the 1830’s character Mhairi. It was Mhairi and her husband Calum who rescued the buried chess pieces from their sandy grave. I found this photo on one of the many Scottish history websites and fb pages that I follow.
The other photo I found using a google search “dark haired women images”. I scanned through many hundreds of images before choosing that of country singer, Brandi Carlisle (see below). I have used her image to base my contemporary character Marianne on because she has I think, some of the same look about her as Mhairi and could be 3 X g-granddaughter (or maybe not- you’ll have to ready the novel!)
Both of the photos were randomly selected, and I would bet my boots that nowhere else in the world do they share a space on a story-board!
Imagine then my delighted surprise when a Scottish history fb page posted the Mhairi photo. Oh, there she is I thought- my Mhairi. This was pleasant but not totally unexpected. It was after all on the same site that I originally found her photo. But you could have knocked me down with a feather when I flicked to the very next post on my fb page and there was of Brandi Carlisle advertising her latest album.
Truth is indeed stranger than fiction!
For more updates on my writing journey read second-draft-fun.html
Jennifer is a writer of short stories, novels and a family history.