That Dreaded Second Draft
Aside from fixing all the grammar and polishing sentences, a good thing to focus on during a second pass are themes, character traits and general style and language. Here I really look at the story from a bird’s-eye view. How do certain characters talk? Is that consistent? Are their motivations clear and consistent? How do we see them change? Do I have convincing arguments on both sides of an issue? Is the audience feeling what I want them to feel at any given point? How can this sentence be phrased better? How can I combine these two paragraphs into one well-spoken and concise sentence?
This pass may be the hardest of them all, and the hardest to keep track of. Use of character worksheets, location worksheets and anything else that might help keep track of things are highly encouraged.
Running through my story the second time, I keep a rather large one-sheet of notes for the polish phase … writing rules and snippets I’ve adapted over the years about things I like in good writing; little reminders for myself. Each story is unique, too, and I’ll add many notes specific to the story I’m working on in the one-sheet. It’s a cheat sheet and one should have no shame in referring to such an item.
Here are some helpful tips from some of our favorite authors:
Author Zack Keller just recently put up a great post about Editing your book like a reader. Some really good stuff in there that I wholeheartedly agree with. I may even find myself cutting out entire chapters, as I read my story more like a reader. Certain things are just extraneous and don’t need to be there. I might absolutely love them. But deep down I know they shouldn’t be there and you just have to kill your babies for the greater good.
I polish, polish and polish the story until I am satisfied with every aspect and feel I have explored every corner of the world without going off on unnecessary tangents. This can take several passes. Patience is a virtue.