The Second Draft

Organising (and performing) at two Festivals this Spring has meant less time for writing. (Writers of old never had to contend with such – I blame the showman Dickens for the idea of prose writer as performer.*) So, although I finished the first draft of the follow-up to Reconquista some time ago ( see The First Draft ) I have had much less opportunity than I would like to work on it.

Travelling is always good. I can work on planes, trains and even on a bus if I take a manuscript copy with me.  Like Jack Kerouac I find when setting out that the world is ‘suddenly rich with possibility’.  I had time in Spain at the beginning of April to myself and a trek via Seville ( Spanish trains are comfortable, cheap and efficient ). So I have done some initial editing work on the sequel, but, since my return, I’ve been concentrating on preparation for my festival appearances (plus doing revisions to a number of older works).

This is not, however, a bad thing. When I do go back to the first draft, as I have done when travelling again recently, I find that I can assess it (or at least the beginning of it ) much better at one remove. Thus, I have already realised that I will have to excise big chunks of the second chapter which, on re-reading, simply didn’t fit, however much I liked these paragraphs when I wrote them.

I find that I see the characters more clearly too, as real people. This means I can put myself in their positions more readily, so I should be able to create much stronger points of view, as my story is told through their eyes, albeit in the third person.

Whereas the first part of Reconquista was told from one point of view and only in Parts II and II were there multiple voices, the follow-up has multiple voices from the start (except for one, missing, voice). This gives the reader an over-arching view and the ability to paint the full picture in their imagination, but without having an omniscient narrator.

I have to avoid detailed re-writing just yet. I’ve got to read through the whole thing first. I make notes in the margins telling myself roughly what I have to do when I re-write, or reminding myself of insights which I have had, but I don’t do the re-writing there and then. That’s for later.

I also have to avoid the precise word-smithing, however tempting it is to dive down into that sort of detail.  Too much of the second draft will fall to be revised yet again and I don’t want to have to ‘kill’ too many of my ‘darlings’ too early, that will come later, so why waste time creating the perfect phrase or sentence? It was William Faulkner who said ‘In writing you must kill all your darlings.’  He was right. A mere whiff of the poetic and it’s out (unless it adds to the story).

I suspect that, once the Crystal Palace Overground Festival is over I’ll just have to set myself some more targets. Hey ho.

*Not that I in any way other than a prosaic one compare myself to Dickens.

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