The Dreaded 2nd Draft: Fun Times.

For those of you who don’t know, I LOATHE writing the second draft of a manuscript. Give me the bliss and wonder of a first draft any day. In a first draft, my editor hat is off. I’m just spilling the words out of my brain and onto the page. Everything works. Everything is gold. Nothing will need to be fixed, I am a brilliant writer…

Then, after a few weeks of marinating on the back burner, I open that first draft and sniff the air. “What is that awful smell? Oh, yeah. It’s my shitty first draft.”

My current dark romantic suspense is currently on the docket for second draft work and I have to say, this one has me sighing heavily. There is sooooooooooo much to brain out on this one. The plot deals with some iky subjects and it’s making me think long and hard about character motivations, redemptive arcs, and, honestly if the whole thing needs to be trashed.

This first draft is short. Only 44k. It needs at least another 20K, which is doable. My first drafts tend to be mostly dialogue, so going back and adding things like pesky descriptions, necessary back story, etc. can easily flesh out the first draft into a novel-sized book. Adding words isn’t the problem with this one. The issue, for me, is the characters and their likability.

Neither one of these characters make smart choices. How do I write these characters who do dumb things, likable and relatable? Especially one character who you really shouldn’t like? It’s a tricky balance of character study in what readers will accept and what they will reject.

Which brings me to the point of this blog. Morally gray characters are complex. When done correctly, they leap off the page, making you love to hate them. Or, sympathize with them, hell, even fall in love with them. Done badly, and it leaves an awful taste in your mouth. A stink in the air.

Oh, it’s my writing.

I can smell that stench lingering in this first draft. That tells me I have some character work to do. Maybe now that I know how the story ends, I can write the emotional arcs of them better. Because, even with an outline, sometimes the story takes a turn. And with it, leaves a wake for you to go back and clean up.

Side note: Author, Tina Moss, and I talk about morally gray characters more in our Bound By Books Podcast in mid-July, so keep an eye out for that one.

Until next time, don’t mind the stench. I have some shit to shovel.

Danielle/Dani Bannister author and hater of second drafts


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