And Then The Second Draft Stunk

The first draft of a book is always- always- a piece of garbage. Most writers, if they’re honest, will admit to this. The second draft, in theory, improves upon the first. I wish that had been so for my latest book project.

The emotional ups and downs of writing a book looks a little like this:

Idea & Inspiration = Fantastic idea. This is genius!
First draft = This book is *&^$%! What happened to the fantastic idea?
Second draft= I think I found that fantastic idea hidden inside this mess.

In a previous post, I lamented the pathetic state of the first draft of my latest book. I’d become so frustrated with the story that I put it aside, unable to figure out what to do with it. Then, over Christmas, in a span of a few minutes while warming up a tamale in the microwave (go figure), idea after idea sprang loose and I had an idea for how to fix the book.

Onto the second draft.

Thirty minutes here and an hour there, day after day, working a page or two at a time, I punched away at the second draft. As I stumbled towards completing the second draft, I realized there was a major problem with my book. I’d left an entire strand of the story dangling and unfinished. Despite my preferences for tightly constructed stories, I realize it’s not the end of the world to leave some questions unanswered. But this particular strand started the book, it was the very first scene, and it set the rest of the story in motion. It seemed kind of important to resolve it.

As if that were the only problem with the second draft.

Not only had I left a strand of the story dangling, but that portion of the story felt forced as well, as if it were nothing more than a tool to move the overall story from point A to point B. To make matters worse, this dangling strand of the story involved a central character I didn’t care for. He wasn’t an evil, unlikable character, but his scenes were flat and lifeless. Uninteresting. I dreaded having to write about him. I ended up killing him off halfway through the book. Ironically, once he died, he became far more interesting in the book.


I needed to fix a part of the book that didn’t work, to change a strand of the story so that it tied into the rest of the book, and I had a character who was more interesting dead than alive.

New idea.

I can fix all three problems in one fell swoop.

Draft three.

That boring character, he’s getting killed on page one.

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2 Responses to And Then The Second Draft Stunk

  1. Roy Booth says:

    I love to read of your trials and tribulations of writing. I find the evolutionary process fascinating.
    I am reading The Son about Texas history. Not the movie version but the real, dark side of events in the 1850s in Texas. I recommend it. Roy

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