Preparing for the Second Draft of My Novel

December 1 is only a few weeks off, and while folks doing NaNoWriMo this year will wake up on Sunday, December 1 basking in the joy of getting their 50,000 words1, I will be getting started on the second draft of my novel. I completed the first draft of the novel (my very first novel) back in mid-September. Writing the first draft, I never went back to read what I had written. I just wrote until it was finished, working through two or three false starts, before hitting on one that worked.

I’ve discussed my general process for writing before. The first draft is for me, so that I know the story. The second draft is a complete rewrite. Now that I know the story, I tell the story to the reader in the second draft, making it as good as I can. With a short story this generally isn’t a big deal. I can complete a second draft in a week or ten days. But a novel?

My game plan looks something like this:

  1. December 1 – 10: Read the first draft and take lots of notes.
  2. December 11-13: Collate the notes organize them for the second draft.
  3. December 14: Begin writing the second draft.
  4. March 31: Second draft is complete.

I am aiming to finish the second draft of the novel by the end of March. That gives me about 105 days or so. Given that the first draft was 95,000 words, it amounts to getting through an average of 900 words/day. This seems reasonable, since for the last 258 days, I’ve averages nearly 900 words/day.

The main difference will be my commitment to keeping to this schedule. Basically, it means that until I reach my 900 words each day, don’t expect to see me online. Any blog posts and tweets you see before I complete my 900 words are pre-scheduled. I’ve been testing this schedule out over the last couple of weeks and while I haven’t always stuck to my plan to stay off the Internet until my writing is done, I’ve done pretty good. I expect to do better beginning December 1.

I’ll post updates along the way, although I will try not to inundate you with them. Maybe one every two weeks. We’ll see.

I’ve been working on several short stories and articles between draft of the novel. I’ve sold one of these stories (details to come when the contracts are signed), have another out on submissions, a third nearly complete in the first draft, and a fourth just underway in the first draft. I also have an article that I am working on and hope to submit in the next two weeks or so. In theory, I’ll have four stories/articles out on submission by the time I return to the novel.

And for those wondering, as of today, I have written for 113 consecutive days. I’ve written on 256 out of the last 258 days, and I’ve written a total of 230,000 words since February 27, not counting blogging2. At my current pace, I should break a quarter of a million words by year’s end.

  1. I am optimistic on your behalf.
  2. Add in the blogging and it adds another 180,000 words to my total for the year


  1. Hi Jamie, I really enjoy your process posts like this. I was wondering, when you say you do a ‘complete rewrite’, are you literally starting with a new file, the first draft at your side and a pile of notes, then retyping everything from scratch? Or do you work on your first draft file?

    I’d love to read a post with a bit more detail about the actual form of your rewriting as it’s something I’ve struggled to come up with a good structure for. I’ve cracked the issue of motivation and getting first draft out, but not the ‘going back and making it publishable’ part.

    1. Dave, yes, I start a new file for the second draft. Typically, I have the drafts side-by-side on my screen. The first draft has all of my notes on it, and I start writing the second draft from scratch, referring to the first draft and my notes.

      The reason I do this is that I generally don’t know the story until the first draft is written. Then, once I know it, I have some idea of how it will change. Sometimes the change is small, but sometimes it is big. Also, the first draft is for me and sometimes, scenes are not as clear as I’d like them to be for the reader. Think of the first draft as a pencil sketch and the second draft as the painting and detail work. The truth is, the second draft writing is my favorite part because that is where the story that I have now told myself comes alive.

      1. Interesting – I’ve only ever redrafted by working with an existing file. I work in Scrivener, which tends to support that kind of working style by default (with version snapshotting of individual documents within your Scrivener project) but I’ve never tried creating a wholly new project and reworking the whole thing from scratch.

        Are you drafting new material for other projects at the same time, alongside the rewrites, or do you single-task, either doing first draft or rewrites?


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