One Saturday I set aside the whole day for some second drafting and plot tightening. I had pretty much two whole weeks coming up to crack on and complete much of the second draft and was keen to proceed.
But by 4pm I’d hit such a low that I was thinking of trashing the whole novel. I had characters that were going nowhere, it seemed every time I filled one plot hole I seemed to create three new ones and one of my favourite chapters was slowing the story down too much and just had to go. Worse, a read-through of some of the second draft edits suggested my writing was becoming too verbose and clumsy, the editing process making it feel overworked, overwritten - I was going backwards and making the storytelling over-complicated and characters inconsistent. It also looked like the research I’d done into the locations and cars in the story was taking over the narrative in places and the Random House Editor’s words echoed in my head: “never let your research show”. Not only did it show but it was so out of place amongst the deliberately brief descriptions I’d used elsewhere it read like it was pasted in from a different book. Aaargh!
Who’d write a novel?!
Just a few days later though, having binned all of my work from the weekend, I was in a much better frame of mind. By putting aside for later the redrafting of one particularly problematic chapter (its heading is ‘Exposition’ - says it all, really) I had moved on to the chapters in the second draft that I knew were fun, strong on emotion and better written, reminding me that it was not that bad and I didn’t need to rethink the whole thing completely. Phew.
One of the problems I’ve had with the second draft is determining what needs a gentle polish, what needs a heavy edit and what would best be served by a full rewrite. One of the reasons I did such a light edit as I progressed the first draft was that I know that I can tinker and tweak to the point of losing, literally, the plot. When I worked as an Editor I was forever berating Subs for destroying a piece’s character by overworking it, and sometimes in my second draft I’ve done that myself.
I’m still learning every day and I have to remind myself that learning in itself is progress, even if the writing process itself does have these ups and downs.