This week was a writing friend of mine, who is reading my second draft, e-mailed and asked me this question: Now I'm curious…. This is a second draft, right? How much did you revise it from the first to second drafts? Now, I spent two months of intense revision going from draft one to draft two, but for the life of me I could not remember what I did! I’m not kidding. Considering I’m about to launch into Draft Three, I thought I’d better get a little perspective on where I’d been. I actually ran upstairs to grab my first draft. It is printed out and kept in a three-ring binder with the following quotations written big in black Sharpie on the cover:
To my great relief, the first draft is fundamentally different than the second! On the suggestion of another writing friend, I had also kept a process journal during my revisions where I wrote about my goals and questions for the story. I found the following:
1) Huge attention to structure. I moved from this map, which I did before writing my first draft:
This is when I’d written all the major events on index cards and rearranged them on my dining room table trying to cultivate some sort of wholeness and some sense of chapter. Things got tighter, and I though I had the skeleton or bones of the story.
2) A lot of questions about character. Figuring out the heart of my two main characters was my doorway into grappling with whatever the white hot center of my story was.
3) I started many days free-writing to a prompt as a way to explore the characters.
4) The majority of my day was spent rewriting from beginning to end, and when I got stuck I often realized the solution to my problem had appeared in my prompt/free-writing that morning. So I invented a lot more of the story, like putting meat on those bones.
So Draft One was about creation –making something that wasn’t there before, risk taking, and following intuition. Draft Two turned out to be about structure and what the characters had to teach me about the white hot center of the story. In Draft Three I want to tighten things structurally so that everything points at the white hot center (which I now understand better…thank you draft two). I imagine this is how sculpting feels –uncovering the story gradually, first in broad swaths and then in finer detail with each pass.
Have you had any revision revelations? Love to hear them! Talking shop always teaches me something.