I started drafting The Felled Gods in September 2014. I finished in October 2015. The final word count for draft one was 52,308 words. Far from my ideal, but I knew I had a lot to expand on.
My personal process for a first draft avoids description of the environment, and I know that particularly near the end of the story, my scenes were closer to 500 words each. So filling those in should easily gain me some ground, even without adding in foreshadowing for later events and clarifying character development I’ve made notes about in later chapters.
So although I aim for a minimum of 70k in a first draft, the plot is sound enough that I know I can enrich my landscape and add in some foreshadowing to boost my count.
After 7.5 weeks, and another novel completed in that gap, I’m returning to the story for the first pass of edits.
Step 1: Re-Outline
It took a couple of evenings to fill out a brief summary of each scene into my table. I highlighted the chapter, scene number, point of view, characters in the scene, character goal, movement/change/events, and where applicable, the try/fail cycle.
Turns out this 52k book has 55 scenes: that’s an average wordcount of 950 per scene.
Not every scene has a clear goal/reaction to fit neatly into a structure, but a majority do, and that’s enough for me. This step is about clarifying exactly which parts of the story in my head actually made it to paper, and which things from my original outline didn’t get included.
Step 2: Summarise and Prioritise Changes
Now I have a shiny chart with the scenes summarised, I can add a column for ‘changes to be made’.
Having made notes in the margins throughout my first draft, I can simply transfer large scale plot changes from my ‘comments’ sections into the row. This not only gives me a good over-arching view of the major plot points and areas to alter, but if I’m feeling excited about one of the changes, I highlight it and can begin the edit there; where momentum will be easy to gain.
Of course I don’t have every single change already thought out, so I highlight those scenes which have fewer than 700 words. These scenes will need a thorough read-through, including the scenes before and after; just to check if anything needs expanding or if they can be left as they are. Short scenes are great for action sequences, but in my first draft, they often mean I didn’t quite know how to expand on a key concept and instead wrote [expand].
Step 3: Make Some Changes
This is where I’m currently at. I’m beginning with the changes I got excited about, then I’ll move onto the shorter ones, and finally any ‘changes’ not made in the first two priorities.
Step 4: Alpha Read Draft Two
Then I’ll do a complete read through, making notes in a notepad which simple say: “Ch1, Sc1: E needs to fall over.”
And I’ll do that while reading the whole manuscript, at this point trying to ignore line edit stuff – the detailed “which word to use where” stage.
But for now, the re-writing commences.