Chapter 11 – The Third Time’s The Charm

The third draft is finished!

I know, I know. I said it would take two months. That’s how long the second draft took to write, so I figured it would take just as long to finish the third. But working long nights and weekends, I somehow managed to tear through the whole thing in only twelve days.

So why the dramatic difference? I think the first draft was like a skeleton of a book. The basic shape was there, but there were lots of holes. And it was kind of scary.

As you may already know, I don’t care much for plotting, partly out of incompetence, but mostly due to sheer laziness. Despite all my attempts to remain completely disorganized, that first draft ended up serving as an outline of sorts. Upon its completion, I had a pretty good feel for who these characters were and where they were going.

By the time I began the second draft, those characters already had their own personalities, their own backstories–all the little quirks that make them seem real. The downside is they also had a lot more to say, and it was up to me to record every word.

I’m joking about that last part. It was a real pleasure to bring these characters to life. As a group they fought through some difficult situations. Sometimes they won, sometimes they lost. Either way, they grew closer together, and I grew closer to them. They made me laugh, they made me cry (well, maybe I got a little misty-eyed). I was almost sad to see the book come to an endโ€ฆ until I remembered there’s always the sequel.

I think that’s why the second draft took so long. There was just so much more to invent. I wish the ideas always gushed out of my head like a fire hydrant, but sometimes they drip slowly like a leaky faucet. You end up just as wet, but it takes a lot more time.

The third draft was much more mechanical than the second. You know how it is, fixing all the awkward phrases and questionable punctuation. It needs to be done, but it’s much less mentally taxing than creating a world from nothing. For the second draft, I was lucky to complete a single chapter a night. By the third draft, I could edit three or four chapters a night.

There was also a great deal of cutting. I find cutting takes considerably less time than creating, unless you find it difficult to kill your darlings. My advice is not to dawdle. Your darlings deserve a quick, clean death.

I consider all that cutting to be a good thing. Afterwards the writing feels tighter, though halfway through I began to worry when the word count dropped a couple thousand words. The second draft wasn’t terribly long to begin with–would I end up with a pamphlet?

But not to worry. I flexed my nouns and adverbs, building the prose up to a lean but buff 91,000 words. Nobody’s kicking sand in my YA novel’s face!

So am I finished? Not exactly.

My original goal was to present the third draft to a few select friends for critiquing. Now that I’m nearly two months ahead of schedule, I feel I should use some of that time to further improve the book. Plus I’m really dreading their critiques, so I’ll do just about anything to put that nightmare off.

I could make another pass through the text, but I fear I’m too close to it. I might not see the forest for the trees. I want to gain some real insight, not just make another mechanical pass. No, I need to get further away.

Don’t worry. I’m not taking another break. Except to write this post, you lucky devil.

The problem is I’ve never really read the novel. I mean, I’ve read every word at least a dozen times, but not like a typical reader would. It’s always in the word processor. That blinking caret just beckonsย fix me! The temptation is too great to tweak every little detail. How am I supposed to gauge the flow of the story if I keep stopping every few seconds to add or remove a comma?

Writer, step away from the keyboard!

I’m going to try something new. I plan to print out a copy of my book (yes, on paper) and read it straight through. I’ll keep a red pen handy to jot down any thoughts I might have, but I’ll try my best not to stop and tinker.

Just read, baby.

Do you remember what it was like to just read a book? I’m talking about way back before you ever had the insane notion of writing? Now you have to analyze every word, every piece of dialogue. But there was a time when you could just read with innocence and wonder…

They say there’s no going back. Once the ink enters your blood, you’re doomed to write for eternity.

But dammit, there’s a little story in there that needs me! I’m going back in, not as a writer, but as a reader. I shall read my book! Do your worst to tempt me, devil-muse, I shall not give in!

Okay, maybe between chapters I’ll pause to make some notes. But that’s it! Unless I have a really good idea after a paragraph. Then I might jot some notes in the margin. But that’s where I draw the line! Unless that extra comma’s really bothering me. Then I might circle it. But not one stroke more!

Yeah, I’ll let you know how that works out.


About thewoodlander

Kirk Watson is the author of The Grey Tales series of novels featuring squirrel-of-action John Grey. He resides in Austin, Texas.
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10 Responses to Chapter 11 – The Third Time’s The Charm

  1. Samantha says:

    Friends can be a little daunting to have them be the critics of our books so if you wanted a complete stranger I would be willing to read it ๐Ÿ™‚ Give you honest feedback. I am in the middle of writing what I hope to be a decent novel but have yet to have anyone even remotely read any part of it, just fearful that they might rip it to pieces… Hope your book does well ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Haha, I know what you mean. I’m hoping my friends will be gentle in their brutal honesty ๐Ÿ™‚
      Thank you for the offer, I just might take you up on it! Good luck on your book as well!

  2. verasilver says:

    Looks like you’re making awesome progress. You spend a lot more time redrafting your novel than I ever have with my stories, and it sounds like a really helpful process. How did you know which bits to cut?

    Good luck with reading your novel. I hope you enjoy it! ๐Ÿ˜€

    • Hey, thanks for the comment!

      I don’t know if there are any guides to cutting. I look for anything that strikes me as over-wordy or just plain boring. It could be an entire passage or a single word. For example, I had a character “pull on the rope” but then I realized he could just “pull the rope.”

      That’s pretty picky and dumb, but that’s me (er, picky, not dumb).

  3. I must admit, you’ve lit a fire under my ass. I keep thinking, if he can do it, so can I. (It’s not that I think I’m hot stuff; I’m just… willful.) So please keep updating your progress. I like it. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Hey, that’s great! And you can do it! How far along are you in your process?

      • I’m getting ready for my first revision (vast overhaul) of a screenplay I finished earlier this year. Meanwhile, I’ve been tinkering around with a novel I actually started a few years ago, but never completed. I think it’s time to finish these projects!

      • Agreed. The hardest part for me is knowing when I’m finished. I could keep editing forever, so I’m just setting some deadlines and sticking to them.

        Good luck on your screenplay and novel! You should blog about them. I’m curious how you’re finding your novel after a few years.

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