Inside the Fiction Factory – Part 22

Second Draft

As I noted earlier, I did NaNoWriMo in September to work up the sequel to The Kill Chain, which has a working title of The Kill Switch. I then left the draft to finish up a short story for a new anthology, while also relaunching my short story collections with some new additions. At the start of November I returned to The Kill Switch, and started the second draft. At the time of writing I am a third of the way through, which means I’m where I expected to be and still on schedule to finish by the end of the month.

For me, the second draft is about reading all the way through, making changes as they come to mind, correcting any obvious spelling mistakes and grammar issues and completing paragraphs where I have skipped over the detail. I don’t spend a lot of time tweaking the words at this stage. If it’s obviously wrong I fix it then move on. Subsequent drafts will be used to stress over the words and phrases. My focus on draft two is on making sure that the chapters are in a sensible order and that there are no obvious plot holes. If there are, these are addressed in this draft. I’m not concerned about the writing, about the words I’ve used or how a descriptive passage reads or if the dialogue is what it needs to be. This draft is about finishing with an understandable storyline. Once that is achieved, then I can move on to draft three.

Draft two is a little stressful. I’m not clear at this stage whether the story hangs together and if it doesn’t then there could be a great deal of work to fix it. I’m the sort of writer that wants to get to draft three as quickly and as painlessly as possible. I stay optimistic that there are no major issues to uncover, and that my planning prior to draft one has helped. So far the first third of the draft is looking good and I’m happy with how it’s progressing. I’m hoping I can say the same about the middle third once I’ve worked through it.

I have further research to do on some of the technology featured in this novel. Feedback from readers of The Kill Chain noted how my use of technology and hacking was readable and understandable. I write to be read and understood so this was very welcome. Techno thrillers are challenging as it’s easier just to write in what I describe as techno-speak, resulting in hardly anyone else being able to understand what I’m going on about. Clarity is key here and I’m aware I have further work to do in this draft to make it so. This is fiction, but it is set in the present day in a potentially real situation. I need to make effort to make it believable, but also not at the expense of writing an exciting story.

One other thing I do during draft two is pay close attention to the last line of each chapter. I want the reader to turn the page and find out what happens next. I love to finish on a cliffhanger wherever it is possible. Yes, there are times when the story needs to pause momentarily and I find these moments tend to present themselves as I write out the draft. I don’t think about not having a cliffhanger if that makes sense. I don’t say to myself, we now need to catch our breath. I concentrate on the transition from one chapter to the next and try to have something which makes readers want to continue reading. Beta readers will tell me when the time comes if I have done enough in this respect.

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