Write A Better Novel: Second Draft

Have you finished the first draft of a novel? Then read this article for practical advice on finishing the second draft.

If you're reading this, then you have probably already finished the first draft of a novel. Before going onto the second draft, the first thing to do is put your manuscript away and give yourself some distance from it.

Just a few days will do, but you might prefer a week or more. When you feel ready to come back, then with pen in hand, take your first draft back out and read through it. The main thing to remember while reading is that this is the first draft - it's not meant to be any good! Don't be too critical - even great writers don't write good first drafts. The second draft is where you're going to make it good.

Read through your manuscript from beginning to end, and jot down anything major that needs to be fixed. This includes structural changes, character changes, scenes needing to be expanded, scenes needing to be cut, etc.

Also, underline words, sentences or passages that you think are good. Once you've marked down everything that needs to be fixed, and underlined everything that you think should stay, then go back to your computer and start the re-writing process.

Taking it one chapter at a time, expand the scenes that need to be expanded and cut away the ones that need to be cut. This is the time that you need to put on your editors cap and really work. Don't worry too much about the actual prose; you'll work on that later. Right now, just concentrate on the main structure.

When you feel that you've finished all the changes (and don't rush - work for as long as needed) then its time to read through your novel again, looking for any changes that still need to be done. If you find some, then go back to the computer and repeat the re-writing process. If though, you don't find anything wrong, then set the novel aside again. Just a few days will do this time. When the few days are over, take it back out and read through it once again, but this time concentrate on the prose.

Note passages that need more description, or dialogue that needs to be shortened. Make sure your writing reads smoothly and isn't too wordy. Watch out for overused words and clichés. If, in a scene of action for example, you notice the overuse of the word "suddenly" then underline it and find another word to substitute a few for. Watch, also for sentences that seem to go on forever. See if they can be changed into two or more sentences. Work on one chapter at a time, and don't go onto another chapter until you finish the current one to the best of you ability.

For this stage of the novel writing process, there is no time limit. This is where the major work of the novel is being done, so expect it to take months at least. Most novels take nearly a year to complete. Just keep working at it until you finally fell like you've finished the whole thing and its ready to be published. When you've reached this stage, then put your novel aside for another week or two and go do something else - get completely away from it. After you've achieved enough distance, then come back, take your manuscript out again, and get read to start the final draft.

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