★ On Second Drafts

I've just begun the revision process for my first novel. It's a little daunting, I'll admit. 238 pages lay before me, and I've no idea what will stay and what will go as I tear through the manuscript. Using an extremely scientific and not-at-all random series of post-it notes and scribbled guidelines, I've got a few thoughts on what needs to be changed, what characters need to be beefed up, what plot elements need to be dropped, and where prose needs to be simplified. I'm making slow progress, but I hope to be done with this draft by the end of May. This is, I believe, the hardest phase of the writing process. I've gotten the story out on paper. Now I have to face the cold, hard reality that large swaths of the first draft are simply terrible. I mean terrible. Rationally, I can accept that, because let's face it: first drafts suck. No first draft in the history of man has ever been any good. But emotionally it's very difficult to go back and see that what you were so satisfied with the first time around was just godawful. That means discouragement, which you have to overcome to get to the next step in the process. I'm a little past that psychological summit, but I'm still deal with the fact that the first time through, I didn't really know what I was doing. Now I've got to take a whole bunch of discordant plot threads and jumpy character arcs and smooth them out, tie them up, and make it look like I knew what I was doing.

The biggest challenge personally is reordering out character hierarchy. Some characters are clearly just there to support the main ones, and I need to make them stand alone and give them their own stories, their own motivations, and their own arcs. Now that's not going to be easy, but as a fan of ensemble dramas, I have trouble just leaving characters in a supporting role. I'll get it worked out eventually, but it'll take a lot of time and a lot of thought.

After I get through this draft, I'll be able to focus on making the novel sing, but right now, I've just got to buckled down and plow through it and hope that I like what I have when I'm done.