I’m into my second draft now and I have been surprised to find that I enjoy writing it more than I did writing the first draft – essentially, laying out the story and telling it is not as much fun as tweaking it.
I love creating. I love telling stories, writing music, coming up with ideas. But now that I have created this thing, my novel, I’ve reached the end of the story, it turns out that it is more exciting going back to the beginning and redoing it than it was creating it in the first place.
Normally, I am very bad at re-reading and checking or editing my work. It’s a problem that readers here may notice. I know I do, when I look back at something I wrote on this blog a few weeks or months ago, and I see the words freshly – I notice all the typing errors and grammatical slips that I (and spellcheck) missed the first time. But even though I see that, it doesn’t push me into checking my posts before I post them. There are various reasons for that, which may or may not warrant a post of their own. Suffice to say, for now, that “editing”, “redrafting”, “checking” etc – not, in the normal run of things, something I feel any motivation or enjoyment in doing. It’s been that way since my school days, when in English or Design classes, we were encouraged to redraft, or come up with a range of ideas. I was always happiest with my first go and felt that the only point in doing it again was to do neater handwriting.
That leaves me with a puzzle, which is, “What explains the enjoyment I’m getting now from doing a second draft?”
One thought is that, at the beginning anyway, I’m going back to work that I did seven years ago. I have seven years’ worth of experience, advice and practice more than I had back then and I am, for want of a better term, “better” than I was. So one explanation might be that I feel a positive buzz from seeing how far I have come, and from comparing what I write now with what looks like inferior work from seven years ago.
Another idea is that normally when I write, such as a blog post, I know where I’m going and where I’m going to stop, from the start. It’s a short trip, there are no surprises on the way and there’s a clear ending in sight. Not so much in terms of the writing, but in terms of the time I spend on it. I know I’m going to finish the piece within a day or a week at most. And when I finish, I have it freshly in my memory (which also, of course, makes it easier to miss any errors because you see what you expect to see). But with my novel, right up until the last couple of chapters, I didn’t know for sure how long it would take me in terms of the time I spent on it, to get there. I didn’t even know if I would end it there or carry on following the stories of my characters. Now that I have finished the first draft, and typed THE END, I don’t have that vast, open-ended vista: I know exactly where I’m going and I can just think about getting here in the most effective and efficient way. Which is to say, the second draft has a sense of direction and purpose that, for all the story planning I did before, the first draft could never fully attain. Equally, trying to do a second draft of a blog post doesn’t have that drive because it already feels “finished”.
It’s possible that I just like making decisions about “how”, more than about “what”. The first draft set out what happens, what the reasons are. The second draft feels like I’m now deciding how to tell that to my audience. Equally, when I write a blog post, I already know “what” I want to say, so the first time I set fingers to keyboard is when I start to decide “how” I want to say it. Perhaps.
The facts remain: I am enjoying the second draft more than the first. This is surprising, but useful.