Advice on writing a 2nd draft?

In about a week’s time, I will print out the full first draft of my novel. My red pen will at the ready.

But then what?

Having not seen the first half of the novel for months, I’d like to read the entire thing straight through (as a reader would do) to get a feel for the full flow and rhythm of the story. But I’m also going to want to note down any clear changes that are required as I go along.

Maybe I can just underline or asterisk every amend that I spot – and then come back to make detailed notes later.

Or perhaps I should make proper notes as I go along as it’s important to capture my thoughts immediately. After all, I’m never going to be able to replicate that first read through.

So, my fellow writers… aspiring or pubished… I’ll take any advice you’ve got to chuck at me. Bring it on…


32 thoughts on “Advice on writing a 2nd draft?

  1. john zande

    Tough one. Small changes can amplify out through the rest of work, and predicting the alternate flows (playing them out) is a headache cocktail.

    I think it was Hemingway who said, “Writing is re-writing.” He was right.

  2. Tuan Ho

    Wear an alien mask if you have one, and read it as if you’re from another planet.

    Not sure how much that’ll help, but it’s worth a try. Or maybe not. 🙂

  3. Jae

    If you haven’t printed it out already, print it out in a font completely different than the one you wrote it in. Like if it’s serifed (Times New Roman) do a san-serif font (Arial). I’ve found time and time again, changing fonts while editing makes mistakes more apparent. And although I think it’s great to read it like a reader would, the problem with that can be that you get absorbed in the vision of the story and miss many things that need editing. You can do a reader-style edit, but also do a backwards edit. There are two ways to do this. The first is literally from the last page to the first. I haven’t tried that yet, but I should.

    The second is a compromise between reader-style and backwards, and it has been extremely helpful to me. Start with Chapter 1, read the last page first (like if it were page 11), then do 10, 9, etc. all the way to one. So not actually backward from words, just from pages. That way it pulls you out of the vision enough that you are looking at mechanics and development better. Ever since I started employing these techniques, people always comment on how clean and tight my writing is.

    Have fun! Editing and revisions are tiresome, but they’re so fruitful!

    1. beautifulorange Post author

      I love these tips – thanks so much Jae. And I may be crazy… but at the moment I’m actually looking forward to getting stuck in to the re-write. I’m sure that feeling will change!

      1. Jae

        Nah, I love rewrites. It’s like hiking a mountain. It may suck a little while you’re doing it, but that view at the top and the accomplishment you feel makes it all worthwhile. Enjoy!

  4. Oliver Waterstone

    Save all the bitty changes – wording, description etc – until a later draft. They can wait until the fifth, sixth, seventh drafts. The second draft is about dealing with the big stuff – story turns and character developments that don’t work and getting them right.

    I’d suggest reading a chapter at a time, without stopping to make notes on little things that will distract you from the big things, and then do a splurge of notes of your thoughts on that chapter. Treat the notes like your writing – do one very fast pass and forget it. Move on to the next chapter and repeat.

    Then when you’re finished, do one more set of notes about the story in its entirety, without looking back at your notes. The things you’ve remembered are the important things, the things you’ve forgotten aren’t worth sweating over.

    Works for me, at any rate.

  5. culturemonk

    good luck dude…..I printed out on paper the entire draft of a novel I wrote back in April and a couple weeks ago I picked it up to start the edit and I just kept finding so much I wanted to change about that I ended up putting it down……a friend of mine read it and loved it as it was…but his experience was different being just a reader. me being the author, I saw so many things that I wanted to be better about it

    1. beautifulorange Post author

      Yup, I don’t think it’s really ever going to be possible to see it as a reader would. But having spent so long working on it at a granular level, I’m looking forward to seeing how it feels as a whole. I believe in what I’m doing, whether or not it publishes or sells, so I’ll complete it eventually – that’s for sure.

  6. Elizabeth Melton Parsons

    I edit and rewrite a dozen different ways. Some have already been mentioned here. Seems like an endless process, but it does eventually get done. One thing I like to do is read it aloud into a tape recorder and then play it back. This is especially good for dialogue editing. Have fun.

  7. Jadi Campbell

    Don’t judge; mark the h##l out of it, reading with an open mind and the assumption that many flashes of brilliance are going to occur to as you reread the first version. See it as a first dip into the pond in which you now are about to plunge. It was the suggestion for the story you want to write. This second pass-through is when the real story you want to tell will suddenly be obvious. I find that ideas for other stories often pop up during this phase of the writing, too. I wish you good luck with the process, and happy writing! —Jadi

  8. Sahm King

    I have nothing constructive to offer… I usually give up on first drafts and just go with it. ‘Cause I get stuck on changes. Or I’m lazy. It’s one of the two.

    Honestly, I’ve always found it very helpful to make my very detailed notes as I’m reading through because, just like you said, you won’t be able to replicate that first read. For my part, I tend to forget the thought I had concerning a particular part I want to change for whatever reason, and if I make a small note, that never helps me… But that’s just me. I’ve always thought the more detailed (as far as notes for changes go), the better. Then, if you end up at the same place I do, you’ll be marking changes for the changes. >:D

  9. Rebecca Bradley

    No doubt you are deep into this by now.

    When I did my first read through I was looking for the glaringly massive errors. Big plot holes, timeline shifts, characters in wrong places, you get the idea. So I worked from a printed copy and was able to make the notes I needed as I went along.

    I went over my manuscript in passes, working on something different each time I did a pass. We all do it differently though.

    I hope it’s going well.

  10. fcmalby

    The advice is always to print it out or read aloud (but that would take time!) as they both help you to spot mistakes and reading the dialogue aloud (or parts of) help with flow. Personally, I print and mark and print and mark, doing several print outs. I also load it onto kindle to get a feel of how the ebook would look and I spot more mistakes. I then use the underline function on kindle (you can make notes on most ereaders) to remind me where the edits are. Hope that helps. Wrote a post on editing on kindle on my blog a while back. Good luck with it. The editing can be so much tougher than the writing. I’m with Hemmingway, though.

    1. beautifulorange Post author

      Thanks! Appreciate the advice. I’ve just started… and you’re right, it’s tough… And often demoralising but occasionally inspiring. I’m actually enjoying it for now. I wonder when that’ll end!

  11. Carrie Rubin

    I did my first three drafts on the computer and made the changes as I came to them. I figured there was still too much to be cleaned up before printing it out and going through it that way. I just finished my fourth draft which consisted of printing the manuscript and reading it out loud. I would add any notes, eliminate too much word repetition, catch typos, etc. After going through about 5 or 6 chapters this way, then I’d go make the changes on the computer.It allowed for more ‘flowed’ reading. Now I’ll go through it one more time as if I’m an outside observer. Of course, that can prove very tricky…

    Good luck, and congratulations on having completed a first draft!

  12. Arkenaten

    Editing and rewrites become easier as you become more experienced and more comfortable with your own style.
    Until then, you do everything the ‘experts’ tell you and when you’ve finished there are still errors/ glitches/holes.
    It’s a bugger!

    Once you have prepped it as best as you can, give it to someone else to read. Fresh Eyes.

    Then find a good editor and then have it proofread and then …. lol…see what I mean?

    Writers write. But writers also read, and this is often the key.

    Best of luck..

      1. beautifulorange Post author

        I guess it’s a fine balance – you need to find someone with perspective, who isn’t just going tell you that it’s all brilliant. But too much negativity can just be crippling.

      2. Arkenaten

        The person who edited my first book laughed along with me during the editing process,and that makes a heck of a difference. Though we had a few heated discussions, trust me.
        We argued over one particular scene via email and telephone for over a week, but it was amicably resolved.
        I was very stubborn.

        The ”Fresh Eyes” are often excellent for fine detail, especially if the plot has a number of twists and turns.
        And sometimes even the big things slide right by the writer.

        But you’ll get there. 🙂

  13. organicforpennies

    After you read it once front to back, read it a second time back to front. It’ll change your entire perspective on it, and you’ll see things you’d never notice otherwise. SOURCE: I was an editor earlier in my career.

    1. beautifulorange Post author

      Thanks for the advice! I hit a bit of a brick wall in the middle of the second draft – mainly due the fact that I was completely changing the style and structure – and I have fallen back on a side project that is now almost complete. So back to the manuscript in the next 2-3 weeks… and I do really like the thought if reading it backwards… a great tip.

  14. Julie Israel

    It sounds like you are into the second draft now– and like you have already done what I think is most important, which is letting it sit for a while before coming back to it. Perspective is golden.

    One other thing I’d recommend, once you have the manuscript in a state you are content with, is to have other people (writers and/or ideal readers) read it and give you feedback. This has been invaluable to me in terms of helping the story be the best it can be!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s