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The Second Draft - Walter Shillington's Author's Workshop

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Once a chapter is completed I take the time to convert that appalling mess into something worth reading.  

I’m Canadian but most of my sales come from the United States.  For this reason, I use an American dictionary.  Of course, my word processor’s spell checker won’t catch everything.  I need to keep my eyes peeled for sentences like “John and I grabbed are coats and headed home.”  In the middle of a long rewrite, errors like this are easy to miss.  

Microsoft Word incorporates a grammar checker.  This works to ensure each sentence is grammatically correct.  Sometimes I bend the rules and compose an improper sentence because I like the effect.  The second draft is my first chance to reconsider this decision.  

Sentence and paragraph structure are inspected in the second draft.  Proper structure aids flow and this will be examined, in greater detail, later.

Dialogue will be scrutinized to ensure it advances the plot and conforms to the personality of the speaker.  It must appear natural, without promoting boredom.  

The overall structure of the chapter will be examined to determine what has been accomplished.  Every novel is composed of plot curves.  Most chapters include a problem that develops at the beginning and is resolved by the end.  If the problem is not solved, that might infer that the chapter is incomplete.  If too many problems are solved, the author might consider splitting the chapter into two.  Don’t get hung up on this; the problem could be that Mary has developed a pimple on her cheek.  The plot curve could end with her cancelling a date or using makeup to cover the imperfection.  Plot curves are plentiful and, usually, quite simple.

Often, in the first draft, words are repeated far too frequently.  As a general rule, avoid using the same word twice in the same sentence.  This rule does not strictly apply to words like the, is and he, but you should make the effort.  In the same vein, try to minimize repeated words within the same paragraph.  This is simply a matter of changing the sentence structure or replacing the offending word with one that has the same meaning.

Adverbs and adjectives can be overused.  If they appear too abundant, go over each sentence and delete those that add little value to the story.

Punctuation, to an extent, is checked by Microsoft Word.  Sadly, it does not cover the use of commas as well as I would like. The misuse of the simple comma is my greatest downfall.

Once my second draft is complete, the work is filed away and I continue on with the next section.  Several weeks later I will go over the chapter again.  The time lapse allows me to look at the work with fresh eyes.  When the book is finished I conduct a final edit of the entire novel.

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