As some of you may know, I started the third draft of my novel The Woodlander a couple of days ago. I thought I would take a quick break to give you my initial impressions.
So far I’ve revised the first three chapters. That’s about 10,000 words. I’m very pleased with that pace. It means I should finish the draft in about three weeks.
Based on how long it took me to complete my first revision, this is fantastic news. I scheduled two months to complete the third draft, but at this rate I should finish it in half that time.
Why is this draft going so much faster? I like to think it’s because the writing is so much better, but truth be told, the first draft was pretty sparse. I tend to write very minimally, focusing heavy on the action but no so much on the details. I think the the first revision involved filling in a lot of those little details to flesh out the story.
Now I’m just focusing on what’s already on the page. If anything, I find myself cutting more than adding. I think that’s a good thing.
I’ll probably continue this pattern of writing a sparse first draft followed by an expanded second draft followed by a third cutting draft. For the first draft, I don’t like to get so bogged down describing someone’s curtains when I still haven’t figured out the main plot yet. I’ll save the cutting for the third draft and later when I can really tighten the story up.
So what do I think of the story so far? I’m pretty happy with it. The book starts out much darker than I remembered. At first I was tempted to soften it a little–I didn’t want to scare away any potential publishers. But I decided that edgy is good. It lets the reader know right away what they’re getting into. Besides, if I start compromising now, what will I have left when the editors get hold of it?
What didn’t I like about the first three chapters? I thought some of the writing was just too dense. There were some really long paragraphs, for instance. I simply broke these into two or more smaller paragraphs. It’s just easier to read a short paragraph.
There were also plenty of unnecessarily complex sentences. Some of these sounded like I was trying too hard to “be a writer.” I simplified these sentences in the name of readability, even if it means they’re not so artsy anymore. Ideally the reader shouldn’t even notice my writing, but instead be captured by the story. It’s my job not to get in the way.
I think that’s worth repeating: It’s my job not to get in the way. That’s hard on any storyteller’s ego, but I think it’s a lesson that will serve me well.
I need to get back to writing, so that’s all for now. I’ll post further impressions as I continue this rewrite. Feel free to let me know about your own revision process!