author, creative writing, writing

Novel Writing: Starting The Second Draft

Morning writers!

A couple of months ago now I delighted in completing the first draft of my novel. It was an overwhelming feeling in may ways, and I have since been working on my second draft.

We all know Hemingway’s famous quote: “The first draft of anything is shit.” I love that quote, but one I adore even more than that is from Shannon Hale. “I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.”

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My first draft definitely involved a lot of shoveling, and I am now trying to build my sandcastle. This is my first time attempting a second draft of a full length novel, and I am only around 10,000 words in. However, I’ve already learned a lot and I wanted to share these points with you.

1. Second drafts add layers to the story
The first thing I learnt was how the second draft adds layers to the story. What had previously been quite dull, quick chapters were suddenly bursting with description, feeling and motive. It just confirms to me that your first draft can be relatively empty. The shell of the story is enough for the first draft, because you fill it out on the re-write. Which leads me onto the next point…

2. You’ll probably end up writing too much
For many writers, the first draft misses out a lot. As mentioned above, the first draft is for the shell of the story, the shovelling of the sand. In contrast, you could find yourself writing almost too much in the second draft. Personally, I am letting this happen. Even when I’m writing dialogue, descriptions, even whole chapters that I think will need cutting, I keep going. I think having all this extra detail will give me more to shape in future edits. I mean, there’s always the third draft, right?

3. You’ll deepen the story
You can add so much more in a second draft. Because the story is already written you don’t need to run away with your ideas and miss things out in your rush to tell the next chapter. Looking over your previously written words, you can take your time to deepen the story and improve the way you tell it.

4. You see the story differently 
Whether you planned your novel meticulously or not at all, your characters will have surprised you along the way. Their decisions and outcomes may have changed throughout the writing process. As such, when you revisit the earlier chapters you may need to make changes to account for the new direction of the story. Writing a second draft is quite magical because this time you know the fate of your characters. This adds a completely new dimension to your story telling, and you begin to implement foreshadowing and clues.

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Have you written a second draft of your novel? Perhaps you’re on your third, forth or more? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the process so please comment below.

Until then,
Keep writing

21 thoughts on “Novel Writing: Starting The Second Draft”

  1. I went through like four revisions of my first book. The first one brought significant changes, the rest were more for tweaking characters and plot lines. Just like a Japanese sword smith folding his steel time and time again as he forges the blade, each revision makes the work stronger and purer. Good luck with your revisions! 😀

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I haven’t started on my second draft yet but thanks for the advice!
    I believe the second draft is more for cutting useless scenes that are abundant early on in my novel and of course like you said, for adding descriptions.
    Good luck!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Since it took over 10 years from my first idea to actually start writing, and I made changes in the concept stage several times over (I guess 4-5 times), my first draft was already quite a monster at 140.000 words and your points for second draft applied at that point already, as I went in for some detail since start. I made some changes later, but most of them are for clarity, better dialogues and stuff like that.
    Eventually the “writing too much’ part made me separate the intro into full-detail prequel, instead of massive cutting, when I was on the verge of fourth draft.
    It’ll never be perfect, but I’ll give it my best and all the time it deserves.

    Happy writing everyone who reads this!


      1. One’s own imagination is probably one of the most interesting worlds, and sharing it is interesting experience. Even when there’s not much to share yet ( during the writing process).

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m on ch. 7 of my second draft. You’re right about building castles!! It’s more satisfying because the image in your mind is clearer on the page in this draft — but also more frustrating because it’s so slow moving. How many drafts do you think you’ll do? Best of luck!!!! 💛💛

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I think I’m going to do 3. I just need to send it out and not worry about it too much. I’ve heard that if your manuscript gets picked up the editor will send back massiveeee edits anyways. Plus I am so ready to start my next story that’s been bouncing around my head!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. My writing process is different than the norm of ‘drafts’, per se, but I think it still involves most of this to some extent and in some form. I suppose when I finally reach ‘the end’ it constitutes my first draft, but for me all the rest feels like cleanup and tweaking, more than a full blown new draft.

    Still, I think for most writers, your points are excellent guides.


  7. I’m way past four drafts now and stopped counting awhile ago 😂. I’ve done everything you’ve outlined here and have finally gotten to the point where I’m happy with the story and I’m now just making sure the writing style is consistent and up to scratch. Good luck with your second draft and beyond. There’ll be times when editing sucks and you wonder what the hell you’re doing, but it’s worth it.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Fantastic post. I loved reading about your learning experience. Although I have not started my second draft of my novel, I’m working through my first major edit of my recently finished short story that will be published in an anthology alongside my friends from my writers group. I’m working through all the lessons you’ve learnt. Thanks for sharing. Happy writing.

    Liked by 1 person

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