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G B Ralph, Author. Header image.

Second draft of my first full-length novel ☠👨‍🍳

With a few interruptions along the way, it’s taken me two years to get to this point…

First draft (i.e. getting it down)

Plotting, planning, and scheming kicked off in February 2019 before I started the first draft two months later. What followed was seven months of tippity tapping away on the train to and from work, at lunchtimes in the public library or the park (weather dependent), and hiding away in the bedroom on weekday evenings at home. I punched The End in November 2019, just in time for our trip home for my brother’s wedding.

At the time I posted about finding time to write, while it was all still fresh – check that out if you want to see where my head was at.

Second draft (i.e. the story edit)

Now, what was supposed to be six or so weeks in the drawer so I could get some distance from the manuscript ended up being much, much longer. I got carried away with a funny little short story, which grew into a novella (Duck and Dive), which grew into three novellas (The Rise and Shine series). Anyway, by the time those were written, edited, formatted, and released, it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I got properly stuck into editing my first full-length novel, provisionally titled The Pirate and the Baker. And as of this weekend, on ANZAC Day (Sunday 25 April 2021), I completed the second draft!

The process of editing this novel is shaping up to be rather different to my novellas. Not only is the story longer and more complex, I have two more years of fiction writing experience since I started the first draft in early 2019. I’ve learnt a lot in this time, developing my craft well beyond what it was. Though, there’s still so much for me to learn! After recently re-reading my first draft from 2019, it was clear I had a big task ahead of me.

My novellas were relatively straightforward, with one point of view character for each of the first two books, who then alternate POV in the third book. This novel is much more intricately plotted, with five POV characters, and will be longer than all three novellas combined.

My novel’s second draft comprised the story edit (AKA developmental or structural edit). I’ve previously jotted down my editing process for Over and Out, my third novella, and I followed a similar process for The Pirate and the Baker. Again, I didn’t make any wholesale plot changes, because I had the story mostly outlined before I started. Still, I made some other significant changes at this stage:

  • Chopping: Cutting up chapters to separate scenes told from different POVs, which had previously often been mixed together within a single chapter – very confusing.
  • And changing: Interspersing shorter chapters amongst each other with the intention of building suspense and keeping the story roaring along. What began as around 30 chapters doubled to over 60.
  • Starting: I cut a major incident from the start of the novel. It still happens, but I don’t show it to the reader. I felt it didn’t set the right tone for the rest of the novel, so readers’ expectations would be way off. I think it also adds some mystery and drama, as the reader will only find out what happened at the same time as the other characters do.
  • And stopping: I realised the end of the novel felt very much like the start of a new adventure. I cut about 8000 words from the final few chapters which I think will sit better as the start of the sequel. Though, at this stage I’m considering incorporating an important conversation (about 1000 words from those cut) into an earlier scene, helping to wrap up the first novel.

I’ve taken comparison screenshots for the first and second drafts. Note: you might also notice Scrivener 3 for Windows was released in the interim.

First draft chapter titles, POVs, wordcounts

Second draft chapter titles, POVs, wordcounts

While making these bigger picture changes, I also made notes to myself about what characters might say and do differently, now that I know them better. I noted any parts that dragged, clunky conversations, sections of too much exposition, and scenes that we could spend more time in. These quick notes are all for future-me (i.e. I didn’t make any changes to the text, only highlighted issues and potential fixes) which I’ll pick up in the next round of edits…

Third draft (i.e. the line edit)

I skipped this round of editing for my novellas. Or, more accurately, I folded it into the overarching story editing stage and the more detailed copy editing stage. However, The Pirate and the Baker requires some serious line editing.

I need to make the novel readable, more like a writer wrote it.

Since picking this manuscript back up, I’ve recognised how much work it needs, so will go chapter by chapter rewriting it. If not the whole book, then at least the first third, which requires the most attention. I will keep the key events and interactions from each chapter and rebuild it from the ground up. A daunting task, but by focusing on a chapter at a time I hope to avoid getting overwhelmed.

Fingers crossed that by the time I’ve finished the line edit, not only will the story hold together, it will read well too!

Wish me luck 😅 And if you have any questions or comments about anything I’ve talked about, please drop me an email or hit me up on social media – I’d love to hear from you!

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