Friday, February 18, 2011

Those Second Draft Blues

Ever get stuck on favourite words and phrases? They become our security blanket and we repeat them through our manuscript. We tell ourselves it doesn’t matter for our first draft. They keep us ploughing through the story with bulldog determination.

Then we finish our first draft and we stare down the barrel of some nasty revisions. All the looks and verys and gasps bury their heads in the text and hope to escape notice. And they do escape notice because over the month, three months, six months it took to write that first draft, we’ve fallen into bad habits.

Our inner editors have gone to sleep, our polish-mode button has rusted over, and we’ve forgotten how to be chief editors of our own work. Other stories begin to distract us. We start to hear the call of novel #2 or 3 or 4. Our current WIP begins to wallow.

Sound familiar? These are the second draft blues.

Ways to change the hue and finish that novel:

Take a break. Don’t make it an endless break. Decide on a return date and stick to it.

Get your work critiqued. It doesn’t have to be close to perfect before you send it out to a trusted critiquer. Sometimes this is the boost we need.

Critique someone’s work. It’s amazing how much easier it is to see someone else’s repeated phrases and passive sentences. This will also wake up the editor that lurks inside us.

Read a how-to book on writing/ attend a workshop. We are forgetful creatures so we often need to relearn the basics, no matter where we are in our career.

Make a list of those favourite words. The beauty of Word is the find feature. I can search through my document and find the multiple gasps, see how I’ve peppered my text with them, and wipe them out where appropriate.

Decide on a writing schedule and stick to it. This will help push distractions aside.

Extend yourself. The revision drafts is where the real work begins. The challenge is always to find new ways of saying something. This requires us to push our thinking and not settle for a that-will-do attitude.

What are some of your favourite words or phrases you have to fix during revisions?


  1. Passive great post. You are a day ahead of me though.

  2. Well, I already explained how I cured myself of 'turn' and 'look'. lol Need to work on 'was' some more.

    It does help to read someone else's work and without a break then read your own. Those objective filters should stay on.

  3. "That" and I tend to copy phrases I just read; for example, if there's "she opened" in one part of the document around where I'm typing, chances are I'll repeat it. :P

  4. Really, those pesky phrases get to be pretty subconscious and it takes becoming aware of them AS you write. I am actually aware of every "but" and "just" that I write now. LOL To a lesser extent, every "still."

    You're SO right about forcing ourselves to find new ways of saying things. If they come too easily, chances are, they're old stuff or even (gasp) cliches. LOL

  5. 'For a moment' is a phrase I definitely use too frequently. Something else I know I'll have to focus on during editing is where scenes begin and end. There's far too many at the moment that start with someone waking up or end with them going to sleep! More creativity required! 

  6. 'For a moment' is a phrase I definitely use too frequently. Something else I know I'll have to focus on during editing is where scenes begin and end. There's far too many at the moment that start with someone waking up or end with them going to sleep! More creativity required! 

  7. I use "smile" a lot. I'm a horrible abuser of passive voice, "was this", "was that", "was smiling"... Oh! And "that". Awful, awful, awful. I think I'm in the 2nd draft blues right now, sadly. So thank you for some awesome tips! :)

  8. Lol, I totally do that all the time. In college we used to joke that the word that appeared most in your paper best describes yourself...for most of us the word was "however."

  9. "The challenge is always to find new ways of saying something."

    Ah, that is so easy in English since you millions of synonyms for all possible words, but it's, unfortunately, much more difficult in my language which has a smaller vocabulary :(

  10. Summer, I'm an Aussie. I'm a day ahead of everyone ;)

    M Pax, I do was too much too. I'm going to try to break the habit for my next first draft as well.

    Golden, that is sn awesome word. That is, it pops up everywhere ;)

    Carol, lol same! Every but I write I now stop and think, do I really need that but?

  11. Great advice.

    I love the FIND function for this very purpose. :D

  12. Cally, I was cured of "for a moment" and "At that moment" after reading a certain novel. Those phrases were everywhere!

    Donea, yep, smile is on my list as well -- along with those passive phrases.

    Mark, LOL! so funny! Bet you don't use however so much anymore.

  13. Dezzy, oh really? That would definitely add to the challenge.

    Stina, it's awesome, isn't it?

  14. Lynda R Young! I really really really need to be more disciplined and focused with my current edit!! LOL!! I find I'm distracted or rather I distract myself with writing other stories. I kind of half think the wip will re-draft and re-edit itself!!LOL!!!

    anyway!!! I have lots of be-verbs and over use of "that"s and suchlike!! Yuck!!! LOL!!!

    Take care

  15. Oh I hate the second draft! Because, yay, that's where all the hard work comes in! Where you have to find original ways to express things. On the one hand this is fun, but a whole book worth gets exhausting! Then figuring out where the holes are and patching them which then causes the cascade effect of other changes...

    This list is good advice though. New follower/crusader. :)

  16. Great ideas! I'm currently going through those blues myself.

  17. Thanks for those tips. I'm having a blues myself. The more I re-write, the more I find my first draft was really bad. I'll apply some of those.

  18. Passive verbs certainly.

    i just write when i write. i fix it later. so i always have plenty to go back to.

    if i described my writing style first draft, it would be like an artist with graphite pen jotting down ideas before the 7 layer oil painting.

    seriously that is how different it comes out after. So i just change everything.

    wasteful, but helpful.

    great post
    happy crusading

  19. You name it, I've got it. But any looks, glances, notices, realizes - I get rid of! Def. not the fun part of revision!

  20. Reading someone else's work...that's a good idea! I honestly find that I have to make myself sit down and work on something when I'm feeling like that. Otherwise I procrastinate forever.

  21. I like the "make a list of your favorite words" idea. I'll have to try that.

  22. On my first pass-through I usually look for where I've left threads hanging - places where I set up something then never tied it up.

  23. "was" is a word that lurks on every page I write. I am now trying be more aware as I write and avoide the pesky critters when possible.

    I kinda like revisions. Getting the story onto the page for the first time is harder for me. Once I've got the full blown thing on paper, fixing words, plot holes, characterization, etc., seems to go smoother once the bones are in place, for me.

  24. We have to read our draft. Let it sit. Re-read it. And re-read it. Sometimes it helps to read backwards, focusing on line by line. I do a search for words or phrases that I discover I think I may be overusing. Lots of ways to do it.

  25. Most excellent advise and right timely.

  26. but... but... but... stories 2, 3 and 4 feel are so bright, shiny, and new!!! you know how distracting shiny things can be!

  27. Old Kitty, it would be nice if the first draft would edit itself...

    Margo, it can be fun, yes, absolutely. Especially when we get into the swing of it.

    Clarissa, aw!

    Ben, everything is fixable :)

    Constance, your analogy is a good one.

    Las Vegas Writer, thanks

  28. Laura, yarp, I write way too many looks, glances, notices, realises.

    Stephanie, aaah, procrastination...I'm doing that right now.

    Heather, cool

    Helen, ah those mischievious dangling threads...

  29. I'm the queen of dialogue tags in a first draft. 80% get cut in draft two. You'd think by now I'd just learn not to stick them in there in the first place!

  30. CherylAnne, "was" is one of my least favourite words, but also my most used ;)

    Ann, oh yes, rereading a multitude of times is important.

    Bish, thanks

    Aspiring, look over there! a shiny! :)

  31. Hey Lynda! Nice to "meet" you, from a fellow Aussie Crusader :)

    Great post- I just came out the end of my second draft, and having taken a few weeks off to let it sit before reviewing again, am horrified at all the awful writing I'm finding.

    I joked a while ago that I was going to rename my MS "She Swallowed A Sob", because there seemed to be just oh-so-much of that going on. For the next revision, every time someone sobs they'll get a sharp smack in the ear from me, and be given something different to do (or at least a different way to say it :)).

  32. Probably the overuse of adverbs and adjctives.

    thanks for dropping by my blog, fellow Crusader!

  33. Greetings fellow crusader! Great suggestions, thank you. Reading aloud helps. I'm a fan of a particular writer who uses the minimum number of words wherever possible and aspire to do the same.

    Thanks for dropping by mine :-)

  34. Hi fellow crusader! What a helpful post. I really enjoyed it. Looking forward to reading more on your blog!

  35. I'm not sure which phrases I'm stuck to - which is why I got myself a slew of crit partners.


  36. Hi! Returning your visit from the crusade! Wonderful place you have. Looking forward to reading more.

  37. My first ms was riddled with smiling and laughing. Time to take out the thesaurus. Actually I have it opened as I'm editing. It really does help to have it handy.


  38. Hi fellow Crusader! Excellent tips! I actually love the editing process. Getting the first draft out is exhausting, polishing....ah!!! So satisfying!!

  39. Passive sentences have become my main weakness. I am actually enjoying the editing process for my current WIP.

  40. I would have to say there are a lot of things that I fix in my drafts but I mis-spell certain words because my brain works faster than my fingers. :D I'm a new follower and fellow crusader stopping by to say Hi and great post.

  41. Wordles are good for finding out which words you TOTALLY overuse (besides character names of course).

    Great advice in this entry!

  42. Great tips, Lynda. I hate revisions so I do a lot of these things you mentioned. They really help.


  43. Great post!! "He nods." "He shakes his head."

  44. These are some excellent tips to remember.
    I believe I tend to use "really", "probably", and "possibly" too much. I probably should use your word search advice to see if this is really true or if I'm possibly mistaken.

    Tossing It Out

  45. I have a "but" problem that I have to trim on revision. lol

  46. I had a HUGE list for my first couple novels. Now I go down it with find, and wow, my brain is reprogrammed. Maybe you can teach an old dog new tricks. (oh, was that a cliché?)

  47. I need to start critiquing more - bet that would help.

  48. Claire, yay to another aussie :) hehe I can sooo relate to that. Everyone frowns and scowls and narrows their eyes in my WIP. Sigh

    JC Martin, ah the ole adverb ;)

    Margo, greetings :) reading aloud is brilliant. I agree about the deletion of unnecessary words.

    Susanna, thanks

    Misha, that's so good to hear. I hope it's going well for you :)

  49. Salarsen, thanks

    Michael, I love the thesaurus!

    Susan, yes on all that -- especially satisfying :)

    Rachna, passive is okay sometimes...but not all the time. (I keep trying to remind myself of that too)

    Ragina, oh yes! mine too!

    Trisha, wordle is cute too.

  50. Jai, thanks :)

    Paul, hehe, yep, I have a few of those too.

    Lee, really? you could possibly be right. Probably ;)

    Kristal, I do too. I didn't realise it until a crit partner pointed it out :(

    Tanya, it's good to reprogramme the brain :)

    Alex, hehe you could offer one as a prize.

  51. lots of words...can't remember them now though....and thanks for the tips...I've been lazy about my writing for some time now...

  52. I did a word search for the word quickly on my MS. It appeared well over 100 times. I lost all but about four of the usages and the text actually read better. Context and action will tell the reader events are moving, ahem, quickly.

  53. Hi fellow crusader...this are some good tips. I'm on maybe draft 4 of my WIP. I'm hoping for it to be the last one :-)

  54. My characters like to roll their eyes, nod, and shake their heads a lot.

  55. Great advice, thank you. I am just starting the fourth round of editing of my manuscript after giving it to a close friend and excellent writer to edit. It's amazing to me all of the passive sentences and repeated words she found, but it's really opened my eyes to my own writing. I'll definately have to add some of your ideas to my to-do list, as well.

  56. caterpillar, glad they helped

    Stephen, hehe yeah I try not to use quickly as well ;)

    Yves, hope it is, but don't be surprised if it isn't ;)

    Susan, ah, the good ole eye rolling. Yep.

    Gina, cool. Hope it helps.


I'd love to hear your opinion. Thanks for leaving a comment.