Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Write Stuff [19] - The Second Draft Slump

Write Stuff  is based on the Wannabe Writers meme hosted by Sarah at Confessions of the Un-Published. This meme is what prompted me to start Writer Quirk, so I am thankful to Sarah for creating it.

I'm going to stray from the usual format and just talk about what I'm dealing with right now, and that is the second draft slump.

I completed the first draft of my first novel in just over a month. The first 50k words were written during November for my first National Novel Writing Month, and the last 17k over the first week of December. That experience, though not exactly easy, was exhilarating. I had created an actual novel. It had a beginning, a middle, and an end. And despite not being literary gold, true publishable novels are written in revision, right? I'd achieved a goal so I had no doubt that I could conquer my next task.

After completing that first draft, I took some time off from my story to get some distance. During that time I read a lot and studied the craft of writing and devoured the blogs of my favorite YA authors. I came to realize exactly what my first novel was lacking. I already knew it wasn't good (hello, I did have a character named Big Stinky Ugly Smelly Giant Doorkeeper Guy), but I could pinpoint how and why and so when I went back to it, I knew what things needed to change. A lot of this had to do with fleshing out the goals and motivations of my characters. I also, as a pantser, had problems with plot and structure. So instead of going to that next step of revision, I chose the do-over, the rewrite.

And that, my friends, is where I still am. I spent just over a month writing that first draft but have spent the last year rewriting the same story and am only about 65% finished. Granted, I did go to the Masters, plan a wedding, get married, go on a honeymoon, read several books, and participate in another NaNoWriMo during the past year, but I've been working on Draft #2 on and off the whole time.

I'm not trying to be hard on myself. I know what my issue is, and that issue was highlighted when I took an online plotting workshop last month. As a natural pantser, I don't have trouble writing. I have trouble finishing, getting to the end, making everything tie up and make sense. I could probably write novels twice the intended length if I let myself do so.

But not knowing what needs to happen in each scene or chapter has made my process far too lengthy. I'm not going by some industry standards as to how long it should take to write a novel; I just know, for me, if I truly hope to make a career out of this someday, I don't like how long it takes me to get a story written. Not just a story, but an actual needs-revision-not-a-complete-rewrite story. I long to revise as I know revision is something I'm good at (thanks to countless papers and speeches I've revised and edited for friends and family) as well as something I enjoy doing. But I need to have something worth revising.

Taking that plotting workshop really broke down the process of plotting for me, and now I know what I need to do before sitting down to write. I know how long scenes should be; I know where my plot points need to fall; I know how to flesh out my characters and build them up and tear them down. But this knowledge, at the stage I am in with my current draft, is burdensome.

I don't want to leave Draft #2 unfinished. It bothers me to think that I may. But what I think about most often these days is a new draft, one where I take the things I have learned about plotting and put them into practice. I knew several things that needed to change in my story before the workshop, but now I know the best way of using those changes and structuring my story so that when it is done, it will be something worth reading.

Am I wasting my time trying to finish a draft I already know will mostly be discarded? Or am I blinded by the shiny, new incarnation of my story that I see in my future? I don't know. I'm not sure if I'm just being overly sentimental about the idea of "completion" and actually hindering my own progress by continuing on something I know isn't working. At the same time, there may be merit in completing another draft, a lesson of experience, if you will.

There are some other things I know that come into play when trying to make this decision. The first is that Draft #2 is already too long. Since I'm writing a paranormal/urban fantasy YA, my goal word count is 75k. Right now, at 65% of the way through the story, I am only about 3k words away from that goal. If I keep writing, I may wind up with a 100k word draft when I finish. I do not want to write a 400 page novel. That is just not for me, at least not with this story.

The second thing I know is that when I was writing the original (horrible, laughable) draft, there was excitement in the unknown, in seeing things happen and appear out of nowhere. I feel no excitement working on Draft #2. For the most part, it has been tedious and fraught with indecision and uncertainty. I know now that is because I didn't have everything I needed before writing it (a.k.a. plot structure, character goals, etc.).

But when I think about the as-yet-nonexistent Draft #3, I can feel that long lost excitement at the edges of my mind. I don't know why exactly. Maybe it is because I plan on being more plot and less pants for Draft #3 and I've never written that way and I want to see what happens when I do. Maybe I'm just trying to give myself an excuse for quitting on Draft #2.

So my question is, my lovely quirks, what would you do if you were in my situation? Have you been where I am before? Any advice or suggestions? I haven't made up my mind yet what I'm going to do so anything you have to offer will be helpful!


  1. I had much the same issue. I was trying to write my last 3 chapters, and really having issues because I knew I needed to iron out some kinks in my characters' emotional development so that what they did at the end would actually make sense. lol.

    So I stopped my draft 2 rewrite and started over on draft 3 (as you already know ^_^). Now I'm having what I'm calling the "OH GOD, I'M SO SICK OF LOOKING AT THIS BOOK slump."

  2. I am dealing with the same issue now. I'm revising my NaNoWriMo draft and it just feels like I'm getting nowhere. I mean, I'm getting through 1,000 words here and there, but I'm staring at the screen. A lot of stuff I wrote for NaNo ended up coming out in the wrong order, and since then I came up with better side stories, so I'm half revising, half rewriting. I started to write scenes out of order in a separate file on my computer and that helps when I feel like I'm going nowhere doing it in order. Once I write a scene for later, I go back to where I left off and can continue.

    I'm not sure how much advice I can give. If you're not feeling it with Draft #2, maybe you need to step away from it for a week or two and work on something else. A short story, a poem, anything. Just something different. Then go back to Draft #2. Even if you do hit 100K on it, it's no biggie. When you go through Draft #2 and start Draft #3, you can start to cut out the unnecessary words, sentences, paragraphs and bring that 100K down to the 75K. I look through my NaNo draft, and if I were to add in my old ideas and new ideas, I'd probably have WAY too many words. So there's a lot of the old ideas that aren't even making it into my second draft.

    You'll be able to make it through this bump. All writers are going to face them, we just need to kick ourselves and keep going. Hang in there!


Thank you for reading!