When I read Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, he mentioned a formula he received in a rejection letter: 2nd Draft = 1st Draft – 10%. That inspired me and I set it as my goal. Numbers and me are good friends and I like having achievable goals I can see and work toward, measurable progress.
I also had my list of ToDos, given to me by my sister-in-law’s friend who read my first draft:
Improve Derek and MaTisha’s characters and relationship
Explain seal manipulation
Explain jesper village more
Look for and fix bad transitions
Expand concern for Peter’s death
Explain what can kill an elemental
Explain life force resonance
Explain how elementals and humans coexist
Explain why Ira is a villain
Lessen the amount of sex
Differentiate memories and flashbacks
Increase concern about the baby
Show strain of jesper suppression
Reconcile all of Derek’s personalities
Make the end more climactic
Yeah, long list, huh? As I started revising, I realized just how difficult cutting really was. And heck! I needed to explain so much, how on earth was I going finish my story at 19K less than where I started? Maybe only 5% less. Maybe I’ll just break even.
At the time, I didn’t know anything about this whole writing business except that I was supposed to type down words into my text editor. So I started to do some research. How do I get feedback about my writing? How can I tell if my writing is improving? I sought out criticism and discovered there’s a world of writers out there looking for the same thing. I signed up with the Ladies Who Critique forums, posted, and then hit up some other writers for exchange. I had a few busts, but I also came out with a few helpful critique partners.
As I worked my way through my chapters, I started looking for tools, something to help me stay organized, let me move stuff around and break things out. I found yWriter5. I loved the separate scenes and the ability to drag and drop to different chapters and rearrange chapters and oh my goodness it was designed by a computer programmer who was also a writer! *cough* Okay, so maybe that last little bit was just a personal bonus since I figured we’d be on the same wavelength with organizational ideas.
Now that I was organized, I decided to look at what others considered good writing. I came across the name Patrick McLean, a man who runs good words right order. I was amazed at how a little bit of word doctoring could transform paragraphs of text. His services are targeted toward businesses, so I didn’t purchase any personal mentoring, but I did exchange a few emails with him and I read his novels which are quite entertaining. He suggested a screenwriting book called Save the Cat! and I took the advice and bought the book.
Save the Cat! sent me on a structure kick and I tried to figure out how to make my story fit a proper structure. I contacted Tonya Macalino who is a relation to my good friends and she came to town to teach a “How to Build a Book” workshop, based on Story Engineering by Larry Brooks. The workshop proved very helpful and I gained a bit more clarity on pivotal points in my story.
While in the process of deleting and rewriting, one critique partner sent me a link to an editing tool: Pro Writing Aid. I pasted in my first chapter and stared in horror at all the little red x’s telling me the many things wrong with my writing. How on earth was I supposed to delete 84 was’s from my chapter? That was preposterous! So I went to the web and looked for suggestions. I found everything from avoiding passive voice to changing past progressive verbs to just plain description delivery. I struggled and complained and rewrote and finally, I had a green checkmark on my overused words line.
Now, over a year since I finished my first draft, my second draft is done. And I hit my word count target! It has taken early morning hours, hoarding weekend nap times, and quite a few internal pep talks. Scenes were deleted. Characters changed. Details were explained. Chapters were rewritten and rewritten and rewritten. And the second draft isn’t even my final draft.
I head into my third draft. I’ve never been good at distinguishing showing from telling. Sometimes I get it, sometimes I don’t. Since it’s not a concept I’ve firmly grasped by now, I have to study. I intend to scrutinize my verbs, sprinkle in a few choice adjectives, spice up some dialogue, and spruce up delivery. I had one friend call me a perfectionist. I wouldn’t say it’s as much perfection as it is pride.