Gen Con Panel Notes: Rewrites and Second Drafts

Max Gladstone, Stephen Blackmoore, Elizabeth Vaughan, Thomas M. Reid, Ray Vallese

How many drafts?
Thomas – 2 or 3 for work for hire
Stephen – work for hire edits are not change this massive thing, it’s lots of little things. So not rewrites. But typically I do at least one rewrite.
one book agent said something at end should be at beginning. It cascaded through everything. But for the most part, a couple drafts.
Max – 6-14 before the editor, then another round after that.
Of those, one to two are significant structural reworking.
Elizabeth – three drafts. First very rough. Made a mistake in not keeping a bible for world as accurately as I should.
Max – if I can still bear to move past page five after so many drafts, it’s a good book
Ray – one novella, didn’t have a deadline so it took a long time to do 5-6 drafts

Ray – turn off internal editor.

Elizabeth – process. I never go back and rewrite until done. But others rewrite as they go.
Stephen – I focus a lot on voice and if I don’t get the opening to click I might get 2-3 chapters in, and fix opening. But then I’m a linear writer.
Thomas – depends how I feel when I wake up in the morning. If you’re trying to have the fingers keep up with brain you can just keep going. But if struggling to get feel of what the characters are like, you go back. But I generally write from start to finish.
Stephen – I outline, sometimes very sketchy.
Got 50k into 3rd book in series, and realized it was all backstory and exposition so started from scratch.
Ray – I skim from the beginning and end up revising before getting to new stuff
For 35k novella, outline was 20k words because was meticulously plotting everything and filling in.
Thomas – pantser or outliner, how much rewriting depends on whether you’re a pantser or outliner.
Does a lot of planning before , so first draft is happy with, not as many rewrites.
Max – pantsers get to a point where they do some planning, outliners. Get to point where they throw out outline and make changes – no one hews perfectly to either approach
Elizabeth – whatever process gets to final manuscript is good
Thomas – I’d get to point where I don’t know what I’m doing (when trying to pants), went back to outline
Max – defined myself as a pantser, then on 3rd book had a deadline and started working and would write 20k words and throw out. And then thought about how he’d avoided that before. Several stages where he’d write out everything that happened in the book.
Thomas – why we talk about pantsers and outliners, there is a lot of structure to putting together a novel or short story.

Elizabeth – what are some concerns that you only address in second draft? Theme? Character consistency? Is there something you don’t worry about in first draft?
Stephen – I think of my outline as my first draft. When I have a manuscript, I look for repeated words, too many dialogues, “and”, things that are too close to each other,
Max – the saying no man happy until he’s dead – call no book good until it’s done, until you see the full draft. Stuff you don’t see until the whole thing,
Pacing, character logic, large scales arcs and thematics,
Elizabeth – my first draft is action and conflict. But in romance you expect the internal dialogue of the doubt of the relationship. I add that in second draft.
Reader wants to be in their head.
Thomas – macro and micro editing, the question is how much and what kind do you do on your various drafts.
Macro – scenes in the correct order, equal screen time for characters
Micro – is prose tight, too many “ands”, does this dialogue work for this character
What you do in subsequent drafts has a lot to do with what you do in initial.
Stephen – I write 1st person so that internal dialogue is integral to the story.

(Third and first person, tenses)

Thomas – writers cover so many differnt things in revisions because initial process is so different
Ray – in second draft I focus on beginnings and endings , I often start too early or go to long

Elizabeth – putting book in drawer or stepping away from it. Hard to do on deadline. But consider it for first book.
Thomas – hard to do on contract. But you have to write a lot of words (to get good at it).

Rough first drafts (draft zero) , when do you give to writing group?
Elizabeth – they get early draft but I try to clean it up
Stephen – is careful,about kind of critique he’s soliciting. Don’t want to waste anyone’s time.
Max – has critiquers but sometimes don’t have time
Different layers of people, some see final draft, some see the first or second.
The earlier I show someone a draft the more I’m looking for assurance that it’s not a travesty
Thomas – group meets every week with 1000 word chunks and shares a Dropbox.
You have to trust and get along with your group.
We all know how they write and what kind if feedback.
But you have to be ok with saying it’s still my book.
Ray – doesn’t send to writing group until second draft

What if you love something but aren’t sure it belongs?
Stephen – ask questions. Does it move the plot. Is it too clever, is it a joke that doesn’t fit. I hate the phrase kill your darlings, a better phrase is everything is fair game
Thomas – find out why people think it should go
Max – trust your joy. On second draft ask if it breaks the book, or have I written the book to live up to it.
Stephen – stop caring

When do you realize you have a weakness and how do you stop obsessing over it while writing? Eg dialogue or endings
Elizabeth – in my first draft I don’t care.
Thomas – get the story down first
Max – there’s nothing wrong with enjoying writing

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One response to “Gen Con Panel Notes: Rewrites and Second Drafts

  1. Pingback: Gen Con Writing Panels | Elizabeth Shack

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