Second Draft

Blog No. 116

THE KARATE KID III, Ralph Macchio, Pat Morita, 1989, (c)Columbia Pictures/courtesy Everett CollectioI feel like I’m still fairly new to writing. I suppose that’s all relative. Lately I’ve been spending more time with writers who have more experience than I do. It seems, compared to them, I am but a spring chicken. I have been working on writing for a while, and I have gleaned some insights. I’m not one to write a lot of how-to or writing guides on this blog, but I’m in the middle of the second draft of the collection and some thoughts have come to mind, specifically about second drafts. Strangely, I feel that my place in writing (as in the skill and act) is sort of like a second draft. I started by just writing. I had ideas for stories and I sat down and wrote them in a way that made sense to me (and seemed fairly entertaining). Later, through perseverance and growth (and by steeling the knowledge of others) I started to find the faults in my writing. Since then I’ve been working to eliminate them, at the cost of my voice. It’s an important step, though a bland one.

Second drafts are vicious, hurtful, and a bit boring. When writing the first draft, while there are hills to climb, the idea is fresh and exciting, the words flow freely, and the story unfolds in spurts of illusionary genius. Sometimes the facade gives way to the reality that everything written in a first draft is garbage, but it’s possible to push through and ignore it. It’s in the second draft that you have to face that horrible writing. Spelling and grammar mistakes, typos, continuity errors, logical fallacies, perspective shifts, plot holes, and just bad writing all wait to be discovered in the second draft. As you edit, you strip away your identity (and any clever turn of phrase) and dig for the nugget of plot, rebuilding the story around it, ironically adding more mistakes and structural faults. Somehow, even though the second draft is cleaner and more proper, it’s worse. It’s so much worse. All imagination is gone. The creative spark is buried. Frustration and despair cloud judgment.

As a writer learning the craft, I’m right there with my stories. I strive for more correct writing, sacrificing style for the skills I’m learning. I self edit as I write, narrowing my writing on the fly, reaching for clean, correct prose, building off of that, surrounding the plot with strained and select words. Very little expands in this stage. Most of my time is spent cutting, trimming, choosing. I’m looking forward to the time when I have mastered some of the fundamentals (at least enough to catch most errors on my own) and my voice, style, and creativity can reign my writing again. In the second draft of myself as an author, is just as boring, frustrating, and limited. I still enjoy writing, and the ideas I’m exploring, but that is buried under the growth and learning.

As of now I’m about halfway though the send draft of my half of the collection. I’m getting a little better at finding mistakes and weak writing on my own, but I’m looking forward to (kind of) giving it to those more experienced writers to shred for the third draft. I know those writers have editors of their own, and they make some of the mistakes they find in my writing (it’s the way editing works and I’ve done my best to edit their stories) but it’s still a bit disheartening when something you toiled over and are proud of gets put through the ringer. That’s how things get better though. That how the stories will reach their full potential and I’ll be improving right along with them. Second drafts are hard, but they are on the road to final products. I just don’t want to pull a Lucas and go back and change it all in a couple of decades.

One thought on “Second Draft

  1. Pingback: Never Enough – Ben Van Dongen

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