Thursday, May 01, 2008

2nd Draft Essentials...

# "One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, ten! What about nine? Seven ate nine..." # - the Barenaked Ladies


It was about a year ago that I began the "Big Write-Up" of my proposed kids' adventure novel tentatively titled "Moon Crater" and began reporting on it here on the blog and through my Official Homepage, and it's really amazing to me to think how far I've been able to advance in that short time with the writing of it, but 2008 is perhaps where the hardest work is just beginning...




The "second draft" process might seem like an easy prospect, cos you've got the whole book written, so all you need to do is tweak things here and there, right? But as I've begun the redrafting process I've realised just how much even changing one small thing in plot or character development can send ripples through the whole story and make things stand out as not being right later in the narrative if you haven't made sure you've redressed them in line with your initial change(s) earlier.

But maybe I'm getting a bit ahead of myself. How I'm approaching this redrafting year is as important as the actual nitty-gritty editing work itself and one thing I talked about during the first draft was the writing space you give yourself to scribble in, your room (or even a garden shed!) can become your "inner sanctum" of solace as you create your crafty words on the page, so I think it's important to make it comfortable but also keep it fresh... With all that in mind, then, this new year saw a new lick of paint applied to our 'study'/spare room at home - we've now got a smaller desk now (which aids in keeping less clutter on it) and the furniture in the room (consisting of mainly bookcases (it's inspiring to surround yourself with the published words of successful authors, I reckon) has been moved around as well for added "Feng Shui"(hopefully!) One other thing that's changed about the place that I write in is that my desk is no longer sitting right at the window of the room - it's great to be able to glance out into the world, but sometimes the glance turns into a stare and before you know it an hour has gone watching someone walk their dog three streets away! So for a fresh perspective and to make me look more through the window of my imagination, the desk now faces onto a blank wall (but I can always swivel in my chair to take a break and look down into our back garden or across the field behind our house...)

Apart from surroundings, as ever, I'm still using the same things that have always inspired me as I write... I've waxed lyrical on this blog before about how I find instrumental and film music in the background useful to help me write, and recently I've been discovering the fantastic opus of the late Jerry Goldsmith to add to my "favourite writing CD stack" near my desk. In the past I've just found music with lyrics invade too much on my mind as it buzzes from one creative thought to another and then out onto the page, but of late I've stumbled across some singers whose gentle but meaningful music I'm able to put on in the background as well as I scribble or type away at my laptop keyboard... I'd recommend two emerging American singers called Anya Marina and Anna Nalick as well as a local singer to my side of the world called Kate Rusby.

To unwind though after a long writing session, I still like my old faithfuls of Counting Crows, Ben Folds, Cake, Guster and the Barenaked Ladies (who've actually now got a really clever play-on-words CD album out now too - just see the lyric line quoted at the start of this post!)... I'm not just harping on about my music tastes without it having some relation to my writing here, by the way, in fact, I've got grand plans for the coming year to show the world of my book through music - all I'll say is for now, keep your eyes open for the "Moon Crater Myspace page", coming soon...

This particular point in this particular year though sees the sort of official end to my "Year of Fear" that began back in May 2007 with the Big Write Up of the book's first draft. From here on in, it will be 12 months of focusing on the particulars of the story itself and I'm looking forward to just how much of a new adventure it's going to be... So you might have noticed the new blog title picture above that is being launced with this post - "It's All About The Adventure!" I think captures the essence of what writing is to me - a brilliant journey of discovery and creation which I'm just having a blast being on... (Plus, it's about 2 years now since I first set up my online web log journal, and every so often I just feel like a change of look is good!)


Second Drafts - "The Theory"...
I talked a lot last year about how I was reading some books on the ideas behind writing as I carried on with my Big Write-Up, and with the second draft, I've gone back to one of those books in particular for more tips... It's called "How To Write" by Stewart Ferris and I think it's particularly useful because there's quite a large section devoted to the re-drafting process...

Another useful tool from my Big Write-Up months is my early-morning 6am get-ups which I'm using once again to help me get productive on the second draft of Moon Crater. I really feel that these were my true key to success on the first draft (it's just starting the routine that's difficult, but once I'm "in the zone", I've found I can really produce some excellent and often inspired writing) - I found a good article online recently which talks about the theory of writing early in the morning - I'm just glad I'm not the only writer who does it! It really is a burning question for me as I try to become more than just an amateur writer, though, as to how professional writers (often very prolific - unlike me!) who aren't working full-time at it (like me!) keep a routine going... But I guess some things you've just got to struggle through and work out on your own cos everyone's personal circumstances are different...

Second Drafts - "The Practical"...Because I've been working on Moon Crater for almost a decade and fleshed it out a lot in long "plot plans" and shredded synopses over the years, the masses of paper I produced on my Big Write-Up (25 chapters in all!) probably isn't really the "2nd draft" proper (it's more like the 2nd-to-10th all rolled into one, but my efforts in 2008 are intended to pull the whole piece together and tidy it up ready for sending out to the professional world... I reckon that if last year was indeed the "Big Write-Up" of those initial drafts, then, this sort of "2nd" re-draft is going to be known as my "Big Type-Up" in my own shorthand...


As I go into this more focused redraft, I'm still trying to resist using Post-Its to make new notes on and have already begun this proces by working closely with the precious Continuity Notebook that I began to keep with the Big Write-Up last year... Added to this idea of not allowing scribbles to be lost because they're recorded hapazardly or in random places, I'm really trying to get out of the habit I've got into of using "reminder notes" on my mobile phone (really handy if you're on the move and haven't got a pen on you - but shame on me for being a writer and not ALWAYS carrying a pen!) - but I really wouldn't recommend phone reminders, because as well as frequently forgetting to write them out properly later, they do tend to get on other people's nerves (and your own) after a while when a dozen have gone off over the course of a day... (plus, like my alarm clock, I have a tendancy to keep hitting the "snooze" button too much and putting off getting to them...)

Right now, I'm busy carefully transcribing the numerous pages of scribbles from my Continuity Notebook in Biro to my first draft chapter print-outs, which is quite a long process, but it's helping me to get back into my early-AM starts by doing a little of these each morning... Another thing I'm carefully noting as I go back through the pages of the book at the moment is to ensure I link up and where necessary insert the various results from both my 1st Moon Crater Fiction Decisions Poll and my 2nd Moon Crater Fiction Decisions Poll (which I promised on this blog) as well as keeping an eagle-eye on the results as they come rolling in from my current 3rd Moon Crater Fiction Decisions Poll (see the sidebar here too) approaching its end by New Year's Eve, 2008...

This new redraft also requires me to do some more detailed research for the story of Moon Crater itself... Speaking of mobile phones, I want to brush up more on "text message speak" that unique second language which children pick up so easily these days... There's also other bits of techno-babble that I want to check on but which are too technical to go into here (plus, could spoil the story too!) I need to make a check-list of how modern schools are run as well, like rules on detention etc. (it's a little while since I was at school myself, you know!) and even the global WED celebrations need some careful backround reading... (I'll let you look that one up on your own!)


From all I've read on 2nd drafts, improving your descriptive writing seems to be an important piece of advice, and looking back over my chapters, I'd say key descriptions in the narrative definitely need to be fleshed out more. The idea of "backgrounding" less important sections of the story and "foregrounding" more important scenes to add excitement for the reader seems to be relevant to my writing here too... I've also realised recently that in terms of story arc and the journey of the central character(s), there's a resolution to their own personal stories that was missing in the first draft(s), so I must make sure I address that this time round so that the reader gets an overall "satisfying read" by the turning of the final page of the book...

Finally, (and I'm aware this has been a long post, folks!) having been bought a digital voice recorder this year by my wife, I'm creating some audio files to aid me in this new draft of Moon Crater - they're sort of "personal podcasts" to myself to allow me to hear how each chapter flows - the rhythm of the writing is important, I think, to readers, (especially when one of my writing weaknesses is definitely "over-writing" and extra long sentences at times!)

But that's not all... There's lots still to come for readers during this 2nd draft "Big Type-Up" year (I'm just not writing reports on this draft each week like I did this time last year!) So I intend on this blog journal to drop in exclusive "re-draft extracts" at various points throughout the next 12 months, as well as (fulfilling my resolve to figure out how to podcast back in my January year preview post) providing some accompanying mini-experimental podcasts to various stages of my work on the novel. With the working titles of "Crater-Casts" at the moment, this ongoing audio series will hopefully give more insights into the world of Moon Crater and my plans for the story for the future...

Well, I'm aware I've babbled for a while now - back to shorter posts next time! But to end on, I'll leave the fellow scribblers amongst you with some final words that aren't actually mine but are free on the Net and pretty useful on how to approach the overall writing life, from a writer I'm not familiar with at all but only stumbled across when Googling about writing new drafts:


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