There is always a part of the creative process that any artist hates. Writers often talk about the fear of the blank page, not knowing what to write. For me, it’s the second draft. The first draft is never the problem, although I do take a ridiculous amount of time to finish what I start (I believe it’s just a bad habit and not really fear). The second draft is a whole different story entirely.
The Second Draft
The second draft is one that includes feedback. This can be feedback given by others or things that you noticed yourself while rereading what you wrote. Maybe you already included notes while you wrote your first draft. Research this a bit more. I usually highlight sections that need to be looked at again. Maybe I’m already feeling that it’s not right, or it needs more research. By using a highlight function instead of a real comment, it won’t affect readers much. Maybe they also agree that it needs to be looked at. I know that my second draft will always be longer than my first for this reason.
What really irks me with the second draft is the combination of crippling fear of what others think of my story, hearing their criticism and actually getting over myself and improve my work. I’ve always had problems with people criticising my work, from high school until my graduation from university, especially in university. University was also the place where I first had to learn how to work with feedback and improving your writing with said feedback. It definitely helped me gain a thicker skin when it came to editing, but I still get a bad feeling in my gut whenever I see notes on the page, no matter what it is.
There is always this dread that the comment will say, “this is utter garbage” or “this is factually incorrect”. This first comment is harder to work with than the second. The last one can be solved with a fact check and rewrite. The first one will just make me want to burn the pages. It’s enough to balance over my wonky belief that my story is good and worthy of peoples’ pennies.
My first readers, Raven and my husband, both know what kind of comments I need to improve my work and both are willing to talk to me about it. They say that their feedback is a suggestion rather than a rule. I’ve had editors in the past that didn’t believe that. They wanted me to edit my work to their idea of good writing. I tried to do it once, but I felt that the story wasn’t mine anymore. That’s when I decided that I only wanted a certain type of editor and I’m lucky Raven is one of them.
I know my first drafts are never perfect. I highly doubt that any of my final manuscripts will be perfect, but just perfect enough. There is only a small percentage of writers who can manage a first draft fit for publishing. This isn’t something you should aim for unless that’s what works best for you (probably not). Some writers need only need two drafts, others seven. There are also those who won’t or can’t stop revising unless the book is absolute perfection. Those books are never done.
Don’t aim for perfection. That’s a lesson I had to learn early on. Your first draft is never your best, but it’s the most important one. I’ve accepted I need more drafts before it’s done. Maybe I’ll need seven, and that’s okay. But I also learned that there has to be a moment when you can say that your manuscript is finished and ready for the next phase.
How do you know? Is it a gut feeling? For some it is. In one of the many writing books that I devoured during my commute a piece of advice is given:
If your next set of revisions are less than 10% of the book, you’re done.
I think this is a nice guideline to determine when your manuscript is done. Not a rule, a guideline. If your gut says that one line or chapter ending still needs work, listen to that.
Now it’s time for me to wait for more feedback from other readers so I can work on my third draft. What part of the writing process do you dislike the most? How do you handle criticism? Share your tips below to help out your fellow writers!