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The Second Draft — The Wall

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Time to get into the meat of writing a second draft. When I first sat down to start my second draft I was hit with dread. I didn’t know where to start. I looked at my manuscript and froze. There were nights I’d literally open my laptop, look at the document, and then close the lid. I basically hit The Wall. Eighty-four-thousand words stared back at me and said, “Come at me bro.”

What frustrated me most was that I knew what big areas needed changing. I had scenes that needed to be added and scenes that needed to be deleted. It should have been easy. So I would start to dive into a random chapter and go to town. But as I snipped and added, I would realize that the changes I made affected so much later in the book. If I changed “C” then I’d have to consider the ramifications on “R” and “W.” The more I edited, the more these started to pile on one another and I felt lost.

The Wall fell on me.

After scrambling out from it I had to sit back and rethink my strategy. Where was I going wrong? Within a few days it hit me. I needed a second outline.

I know it sounds strange, but this really did wonders for me. In basic terms, I skimmed through my book and made an outline of what each chapter was about. Making bullet points of the major beats in each scene. However, when I ran across a beat that needed to go, I did a strikethrough. If a beat needed to be added, I wrote it down and made it bold. In no time I had a quick overview of how the book needed to be fixed. As I got further into the outline I’d easily remember, “Oh yeah. We cut that scene so we need to cut this one too. Or at least the mention of that.”

I was on a roll.

The next step is so simple, everyone will say, “Well duh.” And to you I say, “Back off! I was too busy being crushed by a wall.”

Start at the beginning.

Yes, simple. And probably what most of you would have done. But for some reason I had it in my mind I could jump around all willy-nilly and just fix the bits I wanted. Too bad I was wrong. With my new outline in hand I read along. Tweaked sentences and paragraphs. Added scenes and deleted scenes. Bolstered my world building and caught areas where I could do some nice foreshadowing. And in no time my second draft was completed.

At this point I want to stress an opinion of mine about the writing process. Now, these ideas are born out of my art background. They may seem strange to some of you, but stick with me.

During these subsequent drafts, consider the fact that you’re trying to write from big picture down to details. What do I mean by that? As an artist, when I start a new drawing I start with a sketch. I’m getting the general idea of what I want down on paper. I want to get the underlying structure in place first. Once I feel I have a good gesture, I move a “layer down.” Meaning I start to bolster the shapes, doing my outline and adding flat colors. With each step it is necessary to never jump to the details before your basic shapes are in place.

I view writing the same way. When I first started reading about editing I saw a lot of the same “tips.” Cut out was, very, and like. Check for passive voice. So on and so forth. And yes, I agree these are all things that need to be addressed. But these are details. Become too focused on them and you will loose sight of the big picture. Consider this. You could have a flawless manuscript in terms of grammar. But if the structure and characterization are off, what does that gain you?

Draft big to small. By the fifth or sixth draft you can focus on the very-s, likes, and was’s. Knowing that your character arcs and scenes are rock solid.

Thanks for reading about my ideas on writing the second draft. If you haven’t read the first two parts here and here, check them out. Also, feel free to let me know what you think. Disagree with me or agree. I always have fun talking about writing.




  1. What an awesome overview of your revision process. Thanks for sharing and glad to hear you broke through that wall. 🙂

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