The Second Draft: A Debut Novelist’s Journey

The Second Draft: A Debut Novelist's Journey

When we last heard from our hapless heroine, she was tied to the railroad tracks, screaming for help as the black locomotive chug chugged toward her. Where is that damn hero on the white horse, she despairs.

Whoops, wrong story.

Or is it?

My real life scenario isn’t quite as dramatic, but there are certain similarities. Restrained sitting in front of my computer screen, I scream (silently) to my creative Muse, Inspire me! Rescue me from the agony of an unfinished manuscript!

The hero on a white horse? My imagination jumping into the saddle.

Whoever said writing a novel was easy … wait. No one said writing a novel was easy.

To recap,

  • I waited until age 60 to get serious about writing a novel.
  • I wrote 50,000 words during NaNoWriMo in November 2014.
  • I submitted a first draft to a developmental editor in March 2015.
  • Working off the editor’s notes, I revised and edited, revised and edited.
  • I submitted a second draft (75,000 words) to my editor last week.

Hallelujah! The second draft is out the door. What have I learned?

Just to be clear, this is how the process is going for me. Every writer has his or her own style so I can’t speak for everyone, obviously.

A second draft is better than a first draft, but it’s not as good as a third draft.

My manuscript still needs work. If I had done more prep, perhaps it would be further along.  I would venture a guess that most writers start out with an outline. It makes sense to have a road map and a reasonably good understanding of your plot, your characters, and all the other elements in a novel.

But I am not an outliner. Never have been. So my process evolved differently. I had a basic premise of a story in my head and just sat down and wrote.  Without an outline, that road map was about as effective as my car’s faulty GPS. There were unexpected twists and turns, roadblocks and potholes. There were also dark tunnels that led me into the light.

Also, I heard voices.

You’ve heard writers say their characters speak to them?

They do. Mine did. They told me about their likes and dislikes, the way they walked, their desires. I let them take the lead and show me the way. So what I came up with was not exactly what I thought I would.

Experts tell you to not edit and write simultaneously. For the first draft, you should let your words flow unchecked. You finish the draft and let it marinate for a while. Then you come back to it with fresh eyes, better able to critique it.

As I soldiered on through my second draft, the things I focused on the most were:

Making sure each character had a distinct, unique voice. Was the point of view clear? Did the dialogue ring true?

Showing, not telling. SO important.

Justifying why each sentence should be there and trimming the excess.

Eliminating cliches and metaphors, of which there are way too many in this blog post.

So, what comes next?

Hopefully, hopefully the mistakes in the second draft will be fixed and the next draft can focus on fine tuning. When it’s in its final form I will share it with several beta readers for feedback. Revise and edit, revise and edit.

And I’ll be a little bit closer to freeing myself from the ropes on the train tracks.


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63 Thoughts on “The Second Draft: A Debut Novelist’s Journey

  1. You are totally off the tracks! ‘My Editor”, too cool just that, not everyone can get that far which means the white horse rescue hero is heading towards you now!

  2. Robin (Masshole Mommy) on February 15, 2016 at 12:32 pm said:

    Best of luck on your next draft. I am sure it’s not easy 🙂

  3. I’m so glad to hear of your progress!

  4. What a beautiful experience. Thank you for sharing. I love love love writing. I hope that someday I’ll have my own novel out there in the world. Your words are a great inspiration and offer such insight into the experience.

  5. I am so excited for you, Helene! A second draft is awesome, and I think it means a lot that the characters are talking to you. I can’t wait to read your book. xo

  6. You are making great progress- a second draft is really exciting and means your story is already there, and moving forward. Congratulations on your work so far!

  7. I am so excited for you. What an accomplishment to write a novel. And to get to a second draft. Congrats! I can’t wait to read your novel and get a signed copy when it is in print.

    • hbludman on February 15, 2016 at 2:45 pm said:

      Thank you, Judy! not only will you get a signed copy, but the author will personally deliver it. 🙂

  8. Helene – I’m jealous of your progress! And you are inspiring me to get beyond my first chapter and a rather raggedy outline of my “novel in progress”.
    I belong to a DC area writer’s group (6 women who met in a class) and thankfully they are egging me on. We talk about the importance of showing, not telling, each time we meet.

    Keep us posted with your progress!

    Nancy W.

    • hbludman on February 15, 2016 at 2:53 pm said:

      Thanks so much, Nancy! I wish I had a group like yours. I think it’s so helpful to get feedback along the way.

  9. Roxanne Jones on February 15, 2016 at 1:28 pm said:

    You bring the novel-writing process to life–and reveal just how challenging it is! Brava to you for sticking with it, and for sharing your insights. Can’t wait to read the finished product.

  10. Well, look at you! A published author is what I’m seeing clearly in the near future. I’ll be going to book events to hear YOU speak. I cannot wait to read your book. This is within your grasp now, and you must be so happy. I’m so happy for you.

    • hbludman on February 15, 2016 at 2:50 pm said:

      You are such an amazing friend. I can’t tell you how much you have helped me along the way. Next up is your book, my friend!

  11. So proud of you, Helene!! Congrats on getting the second draft in the mail. Look how far you’ve come. And, btw, I too suffer from no-outlining. I don’t know why I can’t embrace it with ease, But as I’ve begun my next book, I’ve gotten an outline in the works and am reading Book Architecture as a guide. I think in the long run, it will definitely help. Keep going, girlfriend!!!

  12. You are so inspiring! I am sure the amount of work, time and dedication to getting a book together is insane. Good luck with your book process!

  13. YOu go girl. The fact that you made it through a to a second draft is inspiring.

  14. Thanks for sharing your process with us. I look forward to reading your novel when it is — inevitably — a published bestseller!

    • hbludman on February 15, 2016 at 5:07 pm said:

      From your mouth … but honestly, Roz, if I can hold this book in my hand that will be enough.

  15. That is so awesome! I just joined James Patterson’s Master Class so I can force myself to move forward on such an adventure. Congratulations this is huge!

    • hbludman on February 15, 2016 at 5:08 pm said:

      Oh, I have been wondering about that class. Can you let me know what you think of it?

  16. I admire your diligence! I know the results will be fabulous and I am so looking forward to reading it when it’s out.

  17. Like they say you are never too old to start something new. Congrats on your journey so far. I was in my mid 50’s when I started my food blog…learning something new all the time.

  18. I love that you are following your dream and crossing something off your bucket list. Life is short and go way too fast. Best of luck to you. It sounds like you are well on your way!!

  19. So excited for you, Helene! What a huge accomplishment. I agree with you about the need to silence the editor in your head while you are creating. As Hemingway said, “Write drunk. Edit sober.” Congratulations on this milestone!

  20. Helene,
    You inspire me. Thank you for sharing your novel writing journey with us. I can’t wait to buy one of the first copies!

  21. Trish Shea on February 15, 2016 at 8:29 pm said:

    If your book is nearly as interesting as your blog, I think we have a NY Times best seller in the making.

  22. What a beautiful experience! Thank you for sharing it. I love your writing!

  23. So excited for you. I too have gotten serious about writing that story. I’m slugging through the first draft. Can’t wait to hear when yours is ready. Awesome.

  24. Big congrats Helene. I’m so excited to hear of your writing journey! Can’t wait to read your novel!

  25. Congratulations on sending out your second draft. All of you time, work, and effort will surely pay off when you are holding a physical copy of your book.

  26. How exciting!
    If the way you’ve shared this experience is any indication of your book, I’m certain it will be a bestseller!

  27. Outlines aren’t my thing either! But I have the first chapter of my story written and am thinking maybe I need to at least figure out, roughly, what’s going to happen next. 🙂

    Does it count that I have a character list created and the movie cast chosen??

    • hbludman on February 17, 2016 at 8:49 am said:

      Haha! Yes, it certainly counts. Good luck and I look forward to hearing more about your book, Laurie!

  28. How wonderful that you are living your dream. I wish you every bit of luck with the publish!

  29. Good luck!! what a great dream to be living out. I cannot wait to see how 2016 goes for you!

  30. Very cool to have reached this milestone!

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  32. I love the way you write. I am looking forward to reading your book when it is published. Hope you are past the worst of the birthing pains now.

  33. This is such an inspiration! I love that you’re doing this AND writing about it to help motivate the rest of us. Congratulations on your second draft and I can’t wait to hear about your next steps! I’m like you as well – I can’t outline. I know we’re supposed to have outlines and it’s supposed to be all organized out ever-so-neatly, but I just can’t do it. It’s nice to hear that a novelist thinks the same!

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