Second Draft – My Favourite Part?

There is something special about the second draft. As those who read my previous post about not outlining till I finish the first draft – (What madness is this?) – will remember, I let my characters have their heads in my first go through. Let them, given the constraints of the actual historical events I am describing, largely dictate the plot. Only at the end do I outline, to see finally the rough overall shape in this mountain of words I have. And while the ultimate buzz still has to be those rare moments in a first draft when all is invention and I sit there filling the blank page as if taking dictation – usually chuckling aloud – I do love getting into the nitty gritty of the writing with all I know now. Making my adjustments, some minor, some vast. Words are substituted, sentences and paragraphs altered. Whole chapters are excised (rarely). New ones appear (often).

There’s such satisfaction to be had in this narrowing down, this crystalizing of vision.

A case in point. I realized in this read-through that my villain had been a little cursorily dealt with. He did interesting, villainous things – but I couldn’t quite figure out why. And I then realized that I didn’t know his back story as well as some of the others. He has less ‘page time’ in the book perhaps than the others who, because of their prominence, had revealed their pasts more fully to me.

So I went back. I especially considered forms of mental illness. Factored in more heavily the 17th century equivalent of PTSD – most of my male characters are suffering some form of it having fought in the brutal English Civil Wars that killed, they reckon now, close to a quarter of the population. Then I remembered a syndrome that fascinated me when I read about it years ago: De Clerambault’s – the complete certainty that someone is in love with you despite there not being a shred of evidence to support that belief. It is what many stalkers suffer from. It is what I discover my villain has – and it is shaping my rewrite accordingly.

Delving in, rearranging, rewriting, adding, switching pov’s – this is the stuff of creation. I don’t believe like some that ‘writing is rewriting’. It’s all writing, just at different stages, each equally important, each with their own rewards and challenges.

My favourite part? Yes, I think so – until that moment when the author’s copies arrive and I hold one up, sigh, and say, ‘That’s done then. Next!’

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