I can only assume that no piece of art – novel, symphony, painting – comes out complete and perfect in one pass. Creators have to go back and fix things, right? If not I must be doing it very very wrong.
When I write a first draft it’s all about momentum. The goal is to keep putting one foot in front of the other moving the story forward. I’m not saying that I just slap words on the page with the intention to repair them later, but there is a sense of urgency to keep going. For my writing style, until I have an actual story I have a hard time nipping and tucking it into something that readers will (hopefully) enjoy.
As a result, sometimes there are times when I leave holes that need to be filled on a second pass. A lot of times it’s a sentence or a paragraph, usually replaced with something in all caps like “WRITE SOMETHING EXCITING HERE.” That’s particularly true if I’m writing a chapter where characters get into danger and I know they’re going to get out, but haven’t figure out how yet.
What sucks about this strategy is that I usually forget I’ve done it until I come around for a second draft. For me a second draft is where I can make sure things that need to be connected and make sense. Wait, the bad guy in Chapter 5 was an expert marksman, but in Chapter 9 he can’t hit the broad side of a barn? That kind of thing gets fixed in a second draft, along with making sure characters develop like I want and such. And, of course, I fill in holes.
As I said, I usually forget about these holes, but it’s not a big deal to put down the virtual red pen, fire up the writing brain, and knock out a few sentences.
Sometimes, unfortunately, you get this:
That’s Chapter 34 of the first draft of Widows of the Empire. As you can see, when I came round on my second draft, there wasn’t anything there.
Did I panic? Just a little bit. It was one of those situations where I knew, generally, what had to happen in that chapter but at first pass I didn’t have a good idea of how it should happen. I don’t know what it was when I was in the first draft but the particular synapses I needed just weren’t firing at that point.
Did they fire later? Thankfully, yes, although not without complication. I sketched out what I wanted to happen in that chapter, then went back to my red pen and the rest of the manuscript, planning to write that chapter when I was finished. A day or two, tops, and that would be that.
Then the COVID-19 lockdown happened. I’m fortunate in that my day job is both essential (the wheels of justice may slow the fuck down, but they don’t stop) and I can do it safely from home, so my life hasn’t been upended nearly as much as it has for some people. Nonetheless, the change in my daily life, along with the existential dread of the whole situation, sapped my creativity. Literary creativity, anyway.
It took a couple of weeks, but I finally found the spark again and, in a few days, pounded out a chapter that I think is exciting and a little tragic. It moves the pieces along in a way that should deepen the main character involved. It felt good.
All of which is a long way of saying there is now a complete second draft of Widows of the Empire. And it’s waiting for my virtual red pen. Patience, my sweet . . .