Progress on Blood of the Motorway, my soon-to-be-mediocre-selling tale of apocalypse and stale sandwiches, has slowed of late, because its author (me, keep up) has entered waters as yet uncharted. The murky world of the third draft.
The first two drafts were easy. Actually, that’s a lie. The first two drafts have been like drawing a particularly stubborn splinter out of the sole of my feet, but taking years to do it. In fact, if we’re going to use that analogy, I spent three years pulling the splinter out of my foot before deliberately and consciously making a copy of the original splinter and then reinserting it; before taking another year and a half to extract it again.
Still, second draft was officially finished about a month ago, leaving me with a manuscript that I’m fairly happy with, albeit one that still needs a fair bit of TLC. But what to do now? When I finished my first draft I’d also just read On Writing by Stephen King, which it seemed to me had a lot of good stuff to say about approaching your second draft. Firstly, stick it in a drawer for at least six weeks. I did that. Then go through it making notes. Did that too. Then retype the whole thing, rather than tinkering with an existing manuscript.
I did that too, and my book is in a hell of a lot better shape as a result. When you have to manually retype the whole lot, you get a lot less precious about keeping stuff, allowing you to really strip out the dead wood, or completely deviate from the original draft when things aren’t working. This is why I have a manuscript I’m pretty happy with. If you’re a writer rounding off your first draft I’d highly recommend it.
For this new phase, however, it’s really hard to get motivated. I have a manuscript, but it needs work. It needs me to re-read things I’ve read through many times, and try and fix the problems. It’s no longer creative, it’s maintenance. As it stands my main task is to go through the whole book making note of every character, every event, every way in which my three timelines work, noting where I need to deepen my characters, check the timelines work out, note the plot holes along the way. It is, to be frank, a deeply unexciting job. I have a project planner for the whole thing ant it looks remarkably like the kind of work I already do all day. I don’t want to do more of what I already do all day.
But I have to suck it up. I’ve given years over to this thing, endless nights when I could have just as easily spent my time watching DVD’s or eating cake, or even eating cake whilst watching DVD’s. I can’t let it all be a waste just because it’s boring crossing the final hurdle.
Once more unto the draft, dear writer.