The Dreaded Second Draft

It’s the first Wednesday of the month which means it’s time for IWSG (Insecure Writer Support Group), a place for aspiring writers to share their fear and worries and find a community of encouragement and inspiration. If you’re an aspiring author, I recommend checking it out here!

This month’s post:

It is my belief that there are only two truly enjoyable drafts: the first, and the last.

Everything in between is work. Fear, crippling doubt and work.

“The first draft of anything is shit.” I think Hemingway said that. But at least you have your outline. All (most) of your characters are here and they’re doing something, trying to achieve something (your plot). And yes, we all know the first draft is just the author telling themselves the story so grammar and punctuation, syntax and diction are all thrown out the window. That’s fine, easy-peasy, at least you’ve got the meat of your story. The bones.

The second draft, on the other hand, is a battle between remembering how genius you were for even contemplating the story, and the realization that it sucks. Big time. The first draft was your pat on the back, the high five for finishing the race and the ribbon for entering the competition. But the second, the return to try again, to improve, is the sweat and aches, the doubt and fear. It’s questioning that if you knew how tough it would be, would you still have started? The second go around is the no-nonsense, not for beginners, go hard or go home track that defines whether you’re simply interested or deeply passionate. It, to me, is the distinguishing hurdle that defines if you trust and believe in yourself and your work. And that’s where I am. In the midst of the dreaded second draft.

I think I wrote a post about this some time ago, but let me reiterate it now, in the second draft of my fourth book: it doesn’t change. The second draft is toughest because now we have to take that first draft–which really, anyone with enough perseverance can write–and turn it into something more, something not so filled with garbage, something that actually resembles a story. I’m nearly halfway through the second draft and I’ve questioned (more than once) if I should even be a writer. My sentence structure is elementary, there’s more than just a few clichés and even thought I’m enjoying what I’m reading, it’s far, far, far from being anywhere near sharable.

But then I pinch myself.

Oh yeah, the first draft sucks. It’s supposed to. It’s for nobody’s eyes but my own and I remember that all the other things I’ve considered successful went through several edits and redrafts. It’s not that I’m a bad writer or shouldn’t be a writer. I simply have to re-familiarize myself with this (crippling) stage of the process that, let me repeat once more, will never change.

So what about you? Do you find the second draft the most difficult? Or do you find it easier now that you have a first draft to go off of? Inquiring minds want to know.

6 thoughts on “The Dreaded Second Draft

  1. Patsy says:

    I think I’m odd as I like the 2nd draft best. At that stage you have something to work on and can’t help but improve it. The last draft though … don’t like that stage at all. How do you know you’re not just messing it about and should have stopped already? And when you do stop you’re admitting that’s as good as you can do even though it’s not perfect … Ah, I’m supposed to be cheering you up, aren’t I? Does it help that we all have stages we love and stages we don’t and that you’ll get through them all and end up with something you can be proud of?

  2. Loni Townsend says:

    For me, the second draft usually results in a new first draft. 🙂 I’ve had to drastically change so much stuff that I don’t even count draft number, just that “this still isn’t finished, but I’m working on it.” I hope things go smoothly with your second draft!


  3. Bethany Hatheway says:

    I love second drafts. It means that I wrote enough to finish a first draft, so that’s something. The second draft is the most relaxed. You don’t have to worry about writing and writing and writing like the first draft, but there is less pressure to catch ALL the mistakes like a third or fourth draft, just to improve the things and get rid of all the first draft nonsense.

    • cgcoppola says:

      I think it’s so funny how we all do things differently. I really REALLY dislike the second draft but I’m finding many people like it. I think my issue with it is that it forces me to look at the (mostly) nonsense of the first draft. And I get so caught up in its craziness and basic awfulness, that I’m overwhelmed in doubt. But, like I said, we all do it differently.

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