We’re almost done with the second draft. We’ve looked at how this draft is the place to strengthen our voice, build emotional muscle, knead a story into shape, and let go of things we may love, but which aren’t working. The final thing to do before finishing this draft is to dawdle and plant seeds.
Dawdle? Are you kidding? I’ve been working on this book absolutely forever. I want it done. Now! No way am I dawdling at this point.
In the first draft, the focus was on two things
- Goal, motivation, and disaster: Who wants what? Why do they want it? What’s preventing them from getting what they want, or if they do get it, how is it different than they thought it would be? This is the builder’s equivalent of preparing the lot, digging a basement, pouring concrete, framing, and roofing a house. It’s where the heavy lifting gets done.
- Satisfying the demands of the genre. For mysteries, this means clues, red herrings, detective work, and the ultimate triumph of good over evil. Following the building analogy, this is all of those choices to be made. Carpet or hardwood floors? Paint, wallpaper, or paneling? Appliances? Faucets and taps? Lighting?
The second draft is where interior decorating happens
- Enhance every chapter’s first and last lines.
- Where can the story’s volume be adjusted up or down? When should the story go over the top? When should the story be a seductive whisper?
- Sprinkle flash symbols through the book. A little hazy on flash symbols? Check here.
- Mix and match characters, narrative lines, settings. Elements that serve more than one purpose or function enrich the story’s density. The rest of this list was taken from Chris Roerden’s Don’t Murder Your Mystery. I strongly recommend this book to all mystery writers.
Deepen the context
- Appeal to the senses
- Establish a sense of place
- Evoke mood
- Provide texture
- Sketch a description
Humanize the characters
- Change sexual tension
- Establish or betray trust between characters
- Ground or anchor characters (needs to be done periodically, not just once)
- Increase a character’s insight
- Increase what is known about a character
Offer a perspective or counter perspective
- Juice up the plot
- Change pacing, emotion, or suspense
- Raise the stakes
- Use violence as dialog
- Buried agendas or secrets
- Comic relief
And, finally, there’s the landscaping: plant seeds for future books. This is especially important if the book is part of a series. We may know what seeds we’re planting, or we may have no idea at all. Knowing isn’t important. The idea is to plant possibilities than can be explored in subsequent books. Seeds may be as simple as a single line of dialog or a short description.
- “I had a brother, but he died.”
- Marcy had seen enough of Chicago, thank you very much. As far as she knew, the warrant for her was still outstanding.
That’s the second draft. When it’s done, take a break.
Put the manuscript away for at least a couple of weeks. Like making bread or aging fine wine, the material needs a chance to settle down before we begin the final content revision.
And that’s just what we’re going to do. Next week, November 11, will be a Remembrance Day blog. We’ll resume our writing the novel journey on Tuesday, November 18, with Final Content Revision. See you then.