4 Jan

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.


12 Responses to “Rocks”

  1. joyofdawn Monday / 4 January 10 at 3:15 pm #

    That is great! You did great with your goals and you have a reason to feel successful!
    I think the part I like about writing is the creativity. Then probably would be the journey the story takes me through.

    • owlandsparrow Sunday / 10 January 10 at 9:28 am #

      Thank you! 🙂 Ooh, yes. ‘The journey the story takes me through’ – totally know what you mean. I particularly enjoyed the days when I discovered that my characters were, in fact, distinct personalities who actually thought and spoke and felt. It’s so much fun to be creative, and experience things as they unfold for the first time, to go through the journey with the characters!!

  2. Megs - Scattered Bits Monday / 4 January 10 at 8:03 pm #

    I love every part of the process, but I think one of my favorite places is the building of the story, when I’m plotting out where story strands will come together and meet up with others, how things cross-reference, the rules of my world, especially language when that’s involved, how people tick, how their histories play into the events of the story, how two volatile strong characters are going to react to each other, deal with each other, how it affects what will play out several chapters ahead. I love the weaving and the juggling and the balancing act and the thinking things through. A lot of this is pre-writing, a lot of it is on the side of the drafting, and a little bit comes after when I evaluate the gaps or better patterns I can create.

    Not much in the world is more wonderful than weaving a story.

    • owlandsparrow Sunday / 10 January 10 at 9:29 am #

      AMEN to that. All of that. I love it!

  3. newtowritinggirl Tuesday / 5 January 10 at 5:04 am #

    Congrats on finishing the 2nd draft. I’m starting my second in the next couple of days. Can’t wait to be where you are now.

    • owlandsparrow Sunday / 10 January 10 at 9:31 am #

      Thank you!

      Starting your second draft – how wonderful! I’m so excited for you. Enjoy the process, every minute of it!! Can’t wait to read about how it’s coming along. 🙂

  4. Linda Tuesday / 5 January 10 at 4:40 pm #

    Congrats on reaching another goal.

    Like joyofdawn, I find creating a world and birthing characters into most satisfying. It’s a heady power.

    • owlandsparrow Sunday / 10 January 10 at 9:39 am #

      Linda! Thank you. Your encouragement throughout this whole process has been much appreciated! 🙂 Like both of you, I’ve loved creating a world and the characters inside. For me, that part of it keeps getting better as time goes on, because not only have I created them, but the world and the characters keep becoming more clear every day.

  5. jendoll Tuesday / 5 January 10 at 9:43 pm #

    I’m proud of you that you’re doing so well. What is your book about???

    • owlandsparrow Sunday / 10 January 10 at 9:43 am #

      It’s good to see you again! 🙂 Thank you! In short, my book is centered around a scrawny outcast middle-schooler and the various obstacles (both ordinary and extraordinary) he and his new friends face when he’s sent to a strange prep school.

  6. jenniferneri Saturday / 9 January 10 at 10:30 am #

    What an interesting post! It has me thinking of your first posts, and how far you have come as a writer in such a short time.

    In my first novel I trimmed over 40K after a slew of drafts.
    In this my second, I wrote it more like a second draft, at least in the process you desribe here. I think the thing I like most about writing is the discovery.

    • owlandsparrow Sunday / 10 January 10 at 9:50 am #

      Oh, Jennifer – thank you! I certainly feel like I’ve come a long way, but it’s so encouraging to a) hear it from someone else, and b) know there are people who have stuck with me since way back then to see the process unfold! Thank you for both.

      Wow! It’s neat to read about how different your first and second novels were (as opposed to just my first and second drafts) – the writing process is so cool. I have a feeling the process for my next novel will more closely resemble the second draft than the first. It’s neat that either way it’s approached – writing with no plan v. writing with a clear idea of what will happen – discovery is inevitable. I love that.

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