Chronicling The Craft: Draft #2 Revisions – 30% Complete

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Six Steps to Saving Your Self-Edits for Later – Plus, a New Worksheet and Another Excerpt from The Keeper’s Curse

“Chronicling The Craft” is an article series where I share my experience with working on my YA fantasy novel THE KEEPER’S CURSE, starting with the first draft and now into revisions. Each article contains a progress update as well as writing / revising tips and excerpts from the updated draft. Today’s installment celebrates 30-percent completion of Draft #2 of THE KEEPER’S CURSE.

Huh? It’s been 2 months since the last Chronicle?? *blinks* I guess that shouldn’t surprise me. Summer tends to be my slowest writing season, since I’m more motivated to get out and enjoy the nice weather. But that’s OK. It prevents me from becoming a hermit, right? 🙂

Originally I was going to post updates for every 20-percent milestone (20%, 40%, 60%, 80%, and 100%). However, since gaps between those updates might be lengthy, I’m changing the frequency to every 10-percent milestone. Here’s what I’ve done since mid-June:

The 30-Percent Progress Report

I passed the 30-percent mark last Wednesday, at the end of my vacation for Writer’s Digest Conference. And as of Sunday (the last time I worked on TKC), I finished Page 137, which comes in the middle of Chapter 13. Statistically speaking, things look like this:

Total Word Count: 127,477 (452 since the last update, 4234 since revisions began)

Total Page Count: 424 (4 since the last update, 17 since revisions began)

Yeah. It’s been an… interesting chunk of chapters. The word count would rise as I added content that was missing from Draft #1, and then fall as I slashed, shaved, and deleted. More cutting may have to come in Draft #3 if I want to bring the story closer to the “acceptable YA fantasy” word count range. That said, the revisions are definitely bringing more focus and clarity to the story, which was my top priority for Draft #2. So, I feel pretty good about that.

At the same time, TKC is undergoing some hefty changes. Resolving logistical issues, absorbing two supporting characters into one – it’s been rather messy. None of these changes affect the plot or Eva’s character arc in major ways, but they’ll require additional revisions I hadn’t planned on before. So, sometimes I feel like this when I’m working on the manuscript…

Hermione-Granger-Cheers-During-Quidditch-Match

… and other times, I feel like this.

Merida Brave

I’m doing my best to not let the surprises overwhelm me. And as discouraging as the thought of unplanned revisions might be, I also recognize that resolving these issues might help with the word count and make the story more manageable. So, for now, I’ll keep pushing through Draft #2 and incorporate the new changes as necessary, then finish said changes as part of Draft #3.

Today’s Tip: Cut Down on Self-Editing During Your First Draft by Saving Revisions for Your Second Draft

Talking about saving revisions for later is a great transition into today’s tip. If you tend to go back and revise during your first draft, this section is for you. 😉

Most writers are familiar with the term “self-editing.” It’s another name for editing your own work. In a way, you’re self-editing when you’re revising – and that’s the good kind of self-editing. Then there’s the “ugly side” of self-editing, one that emerges during the drafting process.

Maybe you already know what “ugliness” I’m talking about. It’s an itch that your conscience wants to scratch, a new and better idea for a scene that you’ve already written. You might love that idea so much that you go back to that previous scene and revise it to match your improved vision. But, was that self-editing during Draft #1 worth the time? You might think so at first… But it’s often the seed for a bad habit. If you self-edit once during a first draft, you’ll be tempted to fall into that trap over and over again, until you realize how long it’s drawn out your process.

Self-editing is one of the reasons why it took me 2 years to complete Draft #1 of TKC. I’d hate the way I wrote a certain scene, so I’d rewind and revise when I should have concentrated on forward progress. Maybe the perfectionist in me forgot this important point: First drafts are supposed to be crappy. They’re meant to have mistakes, inconsistencies, and other flaws. That’s why second and third drafts and so on exist. Once the initial ideas are down, we can go back to cut, change, and improve to our heart’s content, until the story is ready for the next phase.

Once I came to this conclusion (about 1 1/2 years into Draft #1, of course *lol*), I resolved to cut down on self-editing during the drafting process – and it worked. The last 6 months of Draft #1 were more efficient than any other time in that stage, and doing so helped me create a clear, focused plan for tackling Draft #2.

How did I do this?  By creating what I call the Six Steps to Saving Your Self-Edits for Later:

  1. Be Open to New Ideas. Our subconscious has a funny way of processing our stories when we’re not working them, even when we’ve moved on from a particular scene or chapter. If you randomly think of edits that could improve the story, that’s great! The question is, how quickly should you address that change?
  2. Resist the Urge with a Spoken Mantra. Instead of heeding that temptation to incorporate the new idea now, stop and speak this mantra (or any that works for you) out loud: “I recognize that [insert your idea here] might improve the WIP. But I’ve already finished that scene, and this is only the first draft. First drafts aren’t meant to be perfect. So, I’ll wait until the next draft and make the change then.”
  3. Start a List of Your Revision Ideas. Whether writing manually or typing in a Word document, it’s important to commit your revision ideas to a list so you don’t forget them. Include the chapter number where the change would occur, and number the first idea as #1, the second as #2, and so on.
  4. Repeat Steps #1 Through #3 As Necessary. Each time you find potential revisions as you continue through the first draft, recall your mantra and say it out loud, then add the new idea(s) to your “self-edit saver” list.
  5. Organize Your List After Finishing the First Draft. Chances are your list items will jump back and forth in terms of story chronology. For example, Item #10 might be for Chapter 20, and Item #11 might be for Chapter 15. If that’s the case, take some time after you complete your first draft to type up your list (if you haven’t yet) and prepare your list of revisions in chapter-numeric order (i.e., starting with Chapter 1, etc.).
  6. Print Your List and Keep It Handy. That way, you can review your checklists before each revising session, then cross or check off each item as they’re incorporated.

BONUS: Repeat the Six Steps During Your Second Draft if You’re Planning on a Third Draft. This will depend on how many drafts you want to work on before giving the WIP to critique partners / beta-readers, querying the novel to agents, etc. I already know I’ll need three drafts before the beta-reader stage, so I’ve started a new list of revisions for Draft #3 as I forge through Draft #2.

Now, how about a template to help you with these Six Steps? 😉 Starting today, you can download this from the  Worksheets for Writers page:

The “Self-Edit Saver” Revision Checklist

This checklist encourages writers to list potential revisions for their WIP to eliminate the temptation of self-editing during the drafting process. (Hence the nickname “Self-Edit Saver.” *wink*) It also allows writers to keep track of their revision ideas for the next draft.

The checklist includes instructions that mirror the Six Steps above, and can be used during Step #5. It consists of two parts:

  1. Checklist A: Universal Revisions, which tracks major and/or repetitive revisions that affect the WIP as a whole. Checklist A is broken down into three sections:
    • Did I Remember These?: Major changes regarding backstory, characters, structural improvements, and repetitive elements to delete or revise throughout the WIP
    • Consistency Checks: Has a character’s name or age changed? What about the name of a location, object, etc.? What other facts or spelling do you need to check?
    • Cosmetic Changes and Edits: Minor / editorial changes such as deleting filler words or eliminating dialogue tags and adverbs
  2. Checklist B: Chapter-Specific Revisions, which lists individual changes within a chapter, including reminders to shorten scenes and notes about content to add / delete / clarify.

Click here to visit Worksheets for Writers and download the “Self-Edit Saver” Revision Checklist.

Excerpts To Compare: A Scene from Chapter 11 of The Keeper’s Curse

Like with the previous Chronicle, I’ll share two excerpts from TKC to show how the story has changed during Draft #2, and to give readers a chance to offer early feedback.

Today’s excerpts come from Chapter 11. They’re different versions of a full (and non-spoiler-ish) scene, so each is a little longer than the previous Page 1 excerpts. However, they’re good examples of how heavy revisions can help a scene fit the story better. See what kinds of changes you notice when you compare the two. Also, if it’s possible, please let me know the following:

  1. What general comments do you have on the Draft #2 excerpt?
  2. Do you think Draft #2’s excerpt is an improvement over Draft #1’s? Why or why not?
  3. Does the Draft #2 excerpt make you interested in reading the story?

Flourish 1

DRAFT #1

The next several days of the journey were uneventful, to my relief. By sunrise each day the fourteen of us had broken our fast, dismantled the camp, and begun the day’s ride. We stopped occasionally to rest or drink water; both were necessary under the hot summer sun and the open, grassy plains of the Hartlands. Otherwise, we kept riding until an hour before dusk, or whenever Aurek wished to stop. He never gave his requests directly to me, though. Instead, the Mountain Man would give orders to Gidion, who would then pass them on to me. A seemingly normal chain of command, but it fed the sickening discontent growing within me.

Aurek wasn’t the only one maintaining his distance from me, or from the other Councilors. The other Mountain Men kept to themselves, declining our efforts to build comradery through hunting, dinner, or simple conversation during the day. Doni couldn’t even coax the young Mountain Boy’s name out of him. The other Councilors speculated about our companions at dinner one night, deciding it was either cultural differences or the Mountain Men’s sour mood over losing Match Day to us. I ate my stew in silence as the boys talked in Fae, because I knew the real reason why.

Leading the party every day was already draining me. I spent most of each ride alone, focusing my mind on the northwest route I had planned and watching for landmarks. Immer constantly remarked on my determination when we were together. I’d thank her, stroke her black mane, and walk away to overwhelm myself with the guilt, hopelessness, and vexation I’d shoved from my horse’s senses. By the time I crawled into my blankets next to Doni to sleep, I had exhausted myself of emotion, and I felt no different and not the least bit rested when the sun rose.

The one bright light of that first week came on my birthday. I woke that morning to Doni shaking my shoulder. “Come on, sleepy,” he whispered in my ear, the glow of joy on his face brighter than ever. “You’ll miss your birthday party!”

It was as merry a party as it could be while away from home and with all seven of us crowded into a two-person tent. Keli and Doni played their flutes while the others clapped and sang our people’s birthday song. Then we ate a special breakfast of sunflower seeds, cranberries, cacao pieces, and – one of my favorites – Aunt Maji’s honey biscuits, wrapped in palm leaves to remain fresh. “I still don’t know how we managed to hide them from you for one whole week,” Gidion said as he passed around the biscuits. “I was sure you’d find them and eat them all before now!” There were no gifts; Councilors were not paid for their work, so the others couldn’t afford to buy any. That didn’t matter to me, though. I carried the joy of that waking for the rest of the day like a grin that stretched from head to toe.

That lightness lasted until late afternoon. It was the first day of summer, and it had been unforgivingly hot. At Aurek’s request, which by routine Gidion relayed to me, we had stopped to rest in yet another open plain. Immer and I had galloped ahead so I could get a better sense of our current whereabouts. No sooner had I opened the map that Gidion trotted over on Siabro.

“Aurek wants to camp for the night soon,” Gidion said. “He wants to know if there’s a grove of trees nearby.”

I started to answer but didn’t. The nature of Aurek’s request grated on my patience. “Aurek wants to know?”

“Yes.”

“And he sent you to ask me rather than coming to me himself?”

Gidion’s face reddened. “Yes.”

I turned in my saddle to look at the rest of our party. Aurek had dismounted from his horse and was talking to the silver-haired Mountain Man named Okin. From the way Aurek stood, with his hands on his hips and his back and limbs rigid, I could tell he was troubled – or, worse, angry. I looked back at Gidion. “What’s the matter with him?”

Gidion shrugged. “He didn’t say.”

I stared at my cousin. “He talks to you every cursed morning, yet you don’t know if he’s worried about something?”

“Eva, stop. I don’t ask questions, all right? If something’s the matter, I’m sure Aurek would tell me. Now, shelter for the night.”

Yes, there was a place. I pointed straight ahead. “Remember Fortress Rock? We’ve camped before, under some of the stone overhangs. Let’s go there.”

“Great. I’ll go tell the others.”

“Gidion?”

“Yes?”

I motioned for Gidion and his horse to come closer. When they did, I lowered my voice. “Has Aurek lost his head? Does he think he can go this entire mission without speaking to me? I’m his wretched navigator! If I’m going to take him – and all of us – to our enemy’s doorstep, he needs to come a lot closer than two horse-lengths from me.”

Gidion rolled his eyes. “Eva, can this wait?”

I almost snapped back with a “no.” Instead, I drew a deep breath and gazed off in the direction of Fortress Rock. How could I express my frustration without firing off like a ship’s cannon?

“What do I have to do, Gidion?” I asked. “What do I have to do to make him trust me?”

Gidion sighed. “I don’t know, Eva. That’s your problem, though. Not mine.” He nudged his horse with his lower legs. “Maybe making friends with your Mountain Man companions would be a good place to start,” he said as they trotted away.

Flourish 1

DRAFT #2

Summer soon took its brutal hold on the Hartlands. Heat bore down on us from the vast, cloudless sky, sometimes dripping with humidity. By mid-morning, my clothes would cling to my sweaty skin and my throat would scream for a river’s worth of drink. On the worst days we would rest twice so our horses would not exhaust themselves, and be careful not to empty our water pouches and gourds. Forging the Alyen River was beginning to look like the most welcoming part of our journey – but that was several days away.

One afternoon, during the day’s second rest, I urged Immer further ahead to gain a better sense of our whereabouts. We halted atop a gently sloped knoll so I could open my map. Moments later, Gidion galloped over on Siabro. “We might have to camp sooner than planned. The heat’s given us quite the beating today.” He wiped his sweat-soaked hair away from his forehead. “Where do you think we could shelter for the night?”

I pointed ahead to a stone formation in the distance. “What about Fortress Rock? We’ve camped there before, when Edaro was Captain. It’s only an hour’s ride from here.”

He stared at the landmark without blinking. “Isn’t Fortress Rock important to the Mountain Folk?”

“It’s one of their prayer grounds from the persecution days. The rocks have always been there, though. I remembered it from history class, and I…” Without thinking, I tugged at the heartstone ring on my left hand. “I thought they would like to see it.”

Gidion’s face relaxed, and a sliver of a smile emerged. “And I was convinced you’d never make peace with them. Come, let’s go tell Aurek.”

I narrowed my eyes. “I’ll let you do it, Gidion.”

His mouth fell open. “What?”

“You heard me. You actually enjoy talking to Lord Aurek. I limit myself to one dose of him each day.”

Gidion stared slack-jawed for a moment, then scowled. He nudged Siabro’s sides with his calves and trotted closer, lowered his voice when he was close enough. “Have you lost your head? Do you honestly think you can go this entire mission without being civil?”

“You don’t call this,” I paused to wave a hand at Fortress Rock, “being civil?”

“It’s a thoughtful gesture, but you need to do more than that.”

“More? What do you want me to do, Gidion? Make friends with them?”

“That would be a start.” He nudged Siabro again and rode off to rejoin our company.

What do you think of the excerpts above? Do you think the Draft #2 excerpt is an improvement over the Draft #1 excerpt?

Also, do you have a habit of revising in the middle of your first draft? What tips do you have on cutting down on self-editing or saving potential revisions for later drafts? Share your responses to any of these questions, or any other thoughts you might have, in the Comments section below.

29 thoughts on “Chronicling The Craft: Draft #2 Revisions – 30% Complete

  1. This is such a great post, Sara! I couldn’t agree more about saving editing for the second draft. I worked on my novel for two and a half years before getting serious about finishing the first draft. From then on, it only took me about seven months to complete it. Now to see how long editing takes… *le sigh*

    Thank you so much for putting the “Self-Edit Saver” Checklist together. I wish it was around when I first became serious about writing my first draft. It’s so incredibly helpful!

    And I think you did a great job with your excerpts! I actually really enjoyed the first draft, but I think that’s because it included a lot of worldbuilding. I loved getting into your story world! But that being said, by chapter 11 you probably have the story world pretty well established, so the edits you made are perfect. I can’t wait to read the whole book some day!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Kristen! 🙂 Let me know how things work out with the checklists.

      Awwww, I hope Draft 2 of TDB hasn’t been too frustrating. How has it been going recently?

      Glad you liked the excerpts, especially Draft #2. 🙂 The interesting thing is, some of the info you saw in the Draft #1 version has been moved to other parts of the WIP, and other bits I decided to cut out completely. (Eva’s birthday isn’t really important in the grand scheme of things plot-wise. Plus, I switcher her bday to a couple weeks before TKC begins, and made her newly 17 instead of newly 18. Have I confused you yet? *lol*)

      Like

  2. First: This was such a fantastic post! I’m currently experimenting with my writing process. I’ve paused to go back and edit because I had to put my story on hold for 2 months due to school/travel so I felt too disconnected and had forgotten what happened. I think after I get Act I edited and set up though I’m going to go back to writing straight through.

    I’m so excited about these checklists–what a wonderful idea! I also like the idea about writing a list of your revision ideas. I usually add notes about changes into the document as I write, but I like the idea of having them on a separate paper where I can see all of them. I’m going to have to try this out 😀

    Second: You are so brave for putting your rough draft on the internet for all to see. Seriously. You are so badass! It was so cool to see how much improvement there was between the drafts! I love the second draft, it’s much more focused. One thing I did miss though was the tension you had between Eva and Aurek in the first one, and how he sent someone else to go talk to her about making camp. But that’s just me lol. Great work lady, can’t wait to read the whole story some day 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Kaitlin! 😀 I don’t know what I would have done if I hadn’t thought of creating a checklist for Draft 2. Though I do know things wouldn’t be as organized as they are now. Let me know how the checklists work out for you!

      That sounds like a good plan for getting back to your story. I can imagine how being busy like you were for that period of time would distract you from the WIP’s world and require a revisit. Good luck with your next steps!

      *lol* Oh gosh, thank you. I can’t take credit for the excerpt-sharing idea, though. Another blog reader suggested it, and I figured sharing short snippets like these couldn’t hurt. Plus, by giving people the chance to offer early feedback, it lets me know if I’m missing anything else, if something’s not clear, etc.

      It’s funny you mention the change in Aurek’s dynamics between Drafts 1 and 2. When I was reviewing Draft 1, I realized that Aurek was acting out of character in that scene. He’s not petty – and out of the two of them, Eva’s more likely to act that way than Aurek is. The changes here might also make more sense when read in the context of the entire story… Buuuuuuuuuuuuut that would mean giving everything away. 😉 And there is plenty of tension between Eva and Aurek elsewhere in the story, too.

      Like

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  4. Yay, I’m happy to get to read another excerpt of TKC! (not the Tropical Killer Cake version 😉 hehehe) Draft 2 held and kept my attention far more than Draft 1, especially during the beginning paragraphs. Great job! The only thing I missed was Eva and Aurek’s tension, but you mentioned in the comments that they were acting out of character, so I totally understand the need to change that. And it’s good that you divided up the world-building paragraphs throughout the novel, instead of leaving them in this Draft 1’s excerpt.
    You mentioned you had to combine 2 characters into one. That does not sound easy! I’m glad you made it through though. I’m curious, how did you come to that decision?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ha ha, thanks, E.! Though some Tropical Killer Cake – or, rather, a tamer version of it – might be very yummy right now. 😄

      Yay! I’m happy you liked the edits I made to Draft #2’s version. That seems to be the general consensus here, and it makes me feel good about my revising decisions.

      Yeah, Aurek really isn’t the petty, spiteful kind. He’s more likely to be diplomatic and work towards a resolution. But there is plenty of tension between him and Eva during TKC, so just because it’s gone here doesn’t mean it’s not elsewhere in the story. 😉

      How about I save the character-combining discussion for the next Chronicle? Sarah Higbee asked the same question, and wondered if I’d write an article about it.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. As I am also wading through the thickets of Editland, I found this article absolutely fascinating. Congratulations on your thorough, informative guide to your editing process. Like Rawls above, I’m interested to learn why and how you decided that to combine 2 characters into one. Can you maybe write an article about this aspect?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Sarah! I hope other writers will find it helpful. Each of us goes about our drafting / revising processes in our own way, so I know some writers may still prefer to go back and edit if that’s what works for them. But for anyone looking to make their process more efficient, this could be a step in the right direction.

      I could make that topic (combining two characters into one) the Today’s Tip for the next Chronicle. What do you think about that?

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Lots of good tips. ^ ^ Taking notes is so helpful. Also talking notes in the middle of writing a first draft is helpful. I’ll sometimes discover things I need to fix, but I don’t want to go back and fix them so I make a note then do it later. 🙂

    storitorigrace.blogspot.com

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Great advice. I’m a huge self-editor, and it’s bad. But I tend to really go back, hands-in-the-air raving when I realize I’ve written myself into a corner because of inadequate plot planning ahead of time. I should try and be more disciplined, and see where it takes me. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Alex! And you made a good point about plot reconstruction. If a writer realizes that kind of problem with the story, starting over again is really the only option. The Six Steps above wouldn’t work so well in those cases, but more for cases when you have a fairly solid story foundation. The checklist templates that come with this article also have a note in first page saying that they can be used in conjunction with more organization-related beat sheets like Save The Cat.

      Best of luck with the discipline battle. It’s not an easy writing virtue to achieve, isn’t it? (I know the feeling…)

      Liked by 1 person

      • No, it’s not. But I think I just haven’t found the rhythm that works best for me. Short stories are easier. I can run right through to the end without any fear or self-doubt, and edit after. But my limit for that is 8,000 words. Maybe, since I’m publishing a serial, I hold try and get it up to 10,000 next, and then 12,000, etc etc.

        Liked by 1 person

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