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The Second Draft (Novels)

edited July 2009 in - Reading
I was discussing editing and rewriting on another forum and mentioned that when I started a second draft I aim to cut out 50% of the original (40,000+) and rewrite these gaps. Some people found it a shocking statistic! I do it because I find that I cut out the flabby scenes and leave the strongest elements.

What is everyone else's technique?


  • Mine's different - I've added 20,000 on the second draft and intend to add another 20,000 on the third draft. I tend to have the same technique with short stories, so it just seems to work for me. I do cut out the flabby scenes but replace them with others as I tighten the story.
  • I go through removing passages that I feel the story can do without and then look to tighten the story up but I don't look to put a figure on it. I just chop what I feel needs chopping. Sometimes it's a word or sentence, sometimes a chapter or more.
  • Because I was editing as I was writing the first draft of book #1 (as I have been with book #2), when I got to the second draft I made a lot of changes -- additions, sections and chapters moving around, etc -- but didn't cut very much out. Over the subsequent drafts I've added about 12k to the first draft wordcount, even with cuts I did make.
    The draft I'm editing now is the fourth, and I'm just up to chapter 4. This draft is different to the previous ones, in that I'm not so much redrafting the story as tightening up the writing. Up to now I've cut quite a lot out -- mostly adverbs that are liberally peppered all over the place, but also lines and whole paragraphs that I have found niggled at me every time I read them but I've been reluctant to cut them because I liked what I'd written.
    Editing is hard (to state the extremely obvious), but I know I have to be brutal if I want my book to be the very best that it can be.

  • i just rewrite... if i have ideas for extra scenes then they go in...if i have an idea about changing a scene then i totally rewrite it... for my second draft i am aiming at 40 000 words and so far i am at 30 000 so more than my first draft already and still got some major scenes to write...
  • My book started hopelessly too long, so my redrafting has always been in the direction of cutting as drastically as I could. Sometimes this means cutting two paragraphs but replacing them with a sentence or two. I agree, SA: it is the final work that counts, not any of its details, so beautifully written cameos may have to go. I have had to cut some of my favourite scenes after realising that another (equally good) scene doesn't say the same but conveys the same message, story-wise. How awful it would be if the reader enjoyed both sections but realised this had been said before. If it got past an editor, that is, which it wouldn't.

    But I keep a folder for all substantial cuts; a sort of recycle bin full of labelled text trimmings.
  • edited July 2009
    Like Jediya, I usually do a complete rewrite, at least for the second and third drafts. I tend to 'start short', each draft getting progressively longer. Though I cut plenty of stuff, too.

    By the time I get to draft 4, I usually copy the file and then work on the actual text, chopping, cutting, pasting and adding new stuff. But sometimes I throw up my hands in despair and start another complete rewrite.

    It all feels very inefficient - but I can't seem to work any other way.
  • I just finished reading On Writing by Stephen King. He said he was sent a formula by an editor -
    1st draft = 2nd draft - 10%.
    I'm working through the edits of HM's book at the moment, whole paragraphs are going and when they are gone, I can see why they needed to be removed, the result is a tighter, better read. We just added words yesterday, which was a surprise, when we have been cutting.
  • I tend to aim to increase my word count in the second draft, as in my first draft i skim over lots of scenes just to get them down on paper. Then in my second and third drafts I make it meatier, but by the fourth i'm usually back to cutting things down again.
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