The Second Draft


I have just returned from another visit to see my mom. It is absolutely impossible for me to do any work when I go but the bonus is that I am desperate to write when I return.  Especially now, after completing the first draft.

The editing began before I left.  So far this is what I’ve come up with. First, I read the entire novel through, making notes on the biggest problems. For example, I neglected to situate the lodge firmly at No Name Key. I have to seamlessly describe how remote it was in 1935 and how difficult it was to get there, and do this without creating an info dump.

Next, I need a good reason for guests to be vacationing in September, because anyone who lives in the Florida Keys knows that September is the height of hurricane season, which means bugs, intense heat and humidity, a true deal breaker in 1935 with no electricity (A/C) at the lodge. And these fixes belong in first few pages.

The good news is that I have come up with a most excellent device to bring people to the lodge and in doing so I get to describe the journey to No Name Key, thus neatly resolving both dilemmas at once.  This mini brainstorm gave me the confidence to forge ahead, because that issue nagged at me the entire time I was writing the novel. Now I am more convinced than ever that I have found an approach that works best for me.

I plan to work chronologically, tackling five pages (minimum) per day and should complete the second draft by mid-January at the latest, depending on how much I manage to ignore Christmas and New Year’s.

I’ve learned the hard way (two novels in drawers)  to write forward, never looking back, taking notes as I go along on holes that need filling,  omissions, additions, characters that aren’t earning their keep, characters that need expansion or expulsion.  I am like the willful Canadian salmon arriving bashed and brutalized but getting there!

It’s good to have a friend to cheer each other on when the going gets rough.


But maybe I should be more like the honey badger:
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This is the first rewrite – and I suspect the hardest. It’s where plot gets refined and sharpened. I have two characters who need feature scenes. They also have to be woven into many other scenes in lesser ways because I had no idea how important they were when I began the novel. I also have a couple of major decisions on who to kill off, who gets to live, who gets to have sex, how often, and with whom.

I add to earlier notes on what to correct, refine, verify. Next edit should be much easier. For example, what kind of fish were considered trophy fish in Key West in the 1930’s? What kind of boats were used, how have they changed? I think they would be pretty much the same as today but know better than to trust my instincts when it comes to boats.

1930’s fashion and decor is just plain fun, part of the joy of the work and I need to check impulse to over describe, etc.  But I get to peruse old photos, recipe books, art.

I suspect the second draft separates the gals from the women! But finishing the novel was certainly the hardest. Here’s what I hope – that the second draft is easier than the first, the third easier than the second, on down the line until the last rewrite which is








3 thoughts on “The Second Draft”

  1. Good work, Jessica. To me, this is always the fun part. Refining the material, living with the chracters and making them come out more sharply, making the plot more logical. The uncertainty of the first draft is over, and everything is seen whole. What doesn’t fit is easy to pick out. You can be more concerned with rhythm and flow and atmosphere. This is exciting! I’m happy for you.

  2. Katie says:

    There’s a lot of stuff to juggle and keep organized all the while being loose and letting things flow. That yountook notes and *still have them-gasp!* is amazing to me. Lookin forward to seeing what changes and what stays the same. Must be great to be ever-closer to that finish line.

  3. Susannah says:

    Jessica, You seem to have it all in hand! Bravo. I suspect you don’t need the font change to keep your eye keen. Eager to hear the additions.

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