Facing Your Dreaded Second Draft (part 2 of 2)

1. Examine the pattern and flow

Correct writing mechanics don’t guarantee an interesting story. Consider key structural elements.

Is your novel well paced, motivating the reader to keep turning pages? Beware:

● scenes that drag

● cluttered dialogue

● too much description and backstory

Are flashbacks thrown in at random like narrative sludge — or do they seem a natural foundation for the story?

2. Scrutinize individual words

If you lean heavily on –ly adverbs to assist your verbs (talked quickly, sang merrily) replace them with verbs that can stand alone (trilled, barked, rapped, prattled).

If you use too many –ing verbs (“She was hurrying to get to work”), replace them with stronger verbs (“She raced to her job”).

Weed out indistinct verbs. Instead of, “She was outside the principal’s office,” say, “She paraded . . . She paced . . . She strode . . . She stood . . . She fumed outside the principal’s office.” These add energy.

3. Show, don’t tell!

Actions speak louder than words — especially in fiction.

Don’t have a high school girl tell her rival: “You’re not supposed to smoke in the bathroom. If you do, I’ll tell the teachers.”

Write: “As Jennifer opened her purse and took out a cigarette, Tina reached for the fire alarm. Their eyes locked.”

A cliché has become a confrontation. Don’t lull readers with a rehash of what happened. Put them into the scene, ready to witness events.

Finish the job

I always compliment people who display the discipline to complete a novel. Many have an idea for a story, yet most lack the stamina to get to the end.

Once you’ve written that first draft, go back and perfect it. There’s no shame in not producing an instant masterpiece. The shame lies in letting it go unpublished because you don’t give it the needed polish.

Dennis E. Hensley directs the Department of Professional Writing at Taylor University in Upland, Indiana. He is the co-author, with Holly G. Miller, of the Leslie Holden novels for Harvest House Publishers: The Legacy of Lillian Parker, The Compton Connection, and The Caribbean Conspiracy.

© Copyright Dennis E. Hensley. (Do not use this article in any form without written permission.)


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