It’s odd, this feeling of wait-I-reached-my-goal-and-I-don’t-need-to-write-thousands-of-words-today. A good feeling, yes — odd, nonetheless.
One thing hasn’t changed, though: it’s a Monday morning, and I’m at Starbucks with my laptop and my non-fat latte¹. Though I’m not writing, reading, or editing my manuscript at the moment, I’m trying to retain some semblance of a normal work schedule so it won’t be rough starting back to work mid-January.
So, I’ve been thinking, still processing some things. (Abrupt transition time!) Why is it that finishing the second draft feels so satisfying, but in a wholly other way than finishing the initial draft did? I mean, if anything, I expected the second draft to feel a little less satisfying since I’d already felt the joy of completing a manuscript. After a little bit of thought, I don’t think it’s merely that I set a goal and met it, though that’s a large part of it.
No, I think it’s because a first draft and second draft are wildly different animals², even though they seem similar on the surface.
After completing the first draft, I had this overwhelming sense of Wow, I just DID that! Never before had I written something so thick; never had I created a novel from scratch, let alone actually followed through with writing it. It amazed me to see how the brain works, how living, breathing characters appear from nowhere to populate the fictional terrain. I was so satisfied with the first draft because it was just that: a first draft. The I-can-actually-do-this draft. The one where you know it’s not great, but at least it’s there, a rough piece of stone just waiting to be polished into something: potential.
The first draft was hard, but not in the same ways the second draft turned out to be. For the second draft (which was almost a complete rewrite), I put a lot more thought into it. Characters, subplots, the plot itself, the details, theme, pacing, emotion, dialogue, layers — the shadowy first draft evolved into a more concrete, cohesive thing. Though I knew where the story was headed (unlike the first draft), it was much more difficult to write it this time around. I edited myself a little more, tried to give it more shape, more depth, more layers.
I think that’s the difference.
The second draft has less words than the first, but much more happens. I have a better grasp on the world I’ve created, and I’m excited about the way everything unfolds. New threads have worked their way into this tapestry to give it more texture and color, and there are a lot less loose ends than there were in the first draft. It took work, diligent work. The second draft feels satisfying because after all that work, it’s much better than it was. That rough rock is starting to look like something — it’s still unpolished, but there’s a story there. I’m not merely satisfied with its potential, but with the shape it’s taking. Those are two very different things.
I’m gearing up for the next phase: shifting the weight from my creative side to my analytical (much more objective) one. Editing, I expect, will teach me a whole new set of lessons, and I’m excited.
I’m curious: what do you find satisfying about the writing process? I was tempted to write ‘the most satisfying,’ but I think it would be hard to pick just one thing.
¹What has changed about this scene? I’m wearing my new J. Crew sweater and my new J. Crew scarf as I drink my latte at my laptop. I wished for the entire J. Crew catalogue for Christmas, but alas, it seems even the sales are expensive. I’m more than satisfied to have four new pieces from their ’09 line in my wardrobe, though. Whee!
²For me, at least.