Michelle Rowen

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Ten Things: Second Drafts & Beta-reads

Happy New Year! I’ve updated my News page with some current happenings including a new German translation sale for Stakes & Stilettos. Hooray!

I finished the second draft of Living in Eden the other day. It’s now out with my beta-readers and agent for their impressions. I’m hoping that they like it and don’t find anything horribly wrong about it (this is a vast understatement to my true feelings on the subject, of course). I’m feeling pretty good about how it turned out. At 93K it’s the longest book I’ve written to date. I usually end up at about 85K.

I turned that second draft around in about two weeks. The second half seemed to take forever because the first draft was really, well, less than great. But now I’m happy with it, although I’m feeling a bit burned out creatively at the moment.

However, I want to roll right into brainstorming both a new proposal that’s been nibbling my ankles as well as the second book in my Demon Princess YA series. The outline for that is due asap and I’m going to start writing it on February 1st. Ideally I’d love to go somewhere with palm trees for a week starting tomorrow but that’s not on the schedule. At least not until April when I’m going to the RT Convention (still have to book that).

One new year’s resolution is for me to set up my office area better. I have a desk and a computer on it, but I always do my writing and revising on the couch with my laptop. While comfortable, I don’t think it’s doing wonders for my spine. These are things I think about now that I’m old. So…new desk is in the works. Somewhere. Some time.

Anyhow, as I’m summoning my muse to do some work today, I’ve come up with another Ten Things list.


Ten Things I look for in second drafts and beta-reads


1.     Repetitive phrasing
One of the dangers of fast drafting is this little problem. I usually latch onto a word or phrase and use it a million times during my first draft. My characters frown and gaze and shrug and cock their heads. “Obviously,” or “seriously” also is overused. The characters narrow or widen their eyes to show anger or surprise. For some reason everybody is sucking in breaths now in my books. I could go on. Oh yes, I could. But I won’t.


2.     Boring stuff
Some of these fifteen page conversations to get one character trait or story point across are just not necessary. My characters like to talk, and that’s okay, since dialogue is my favorite thing to write and I think it’s one of my strong points…but there’s a limit. When my mind wanders reading my own stuff, then it’s a sign that a lot of it can be cut.


3.     Pacing
This is similar to cutting the boring parts, but it works on more of a story whole than scene by scene. My agent told me that my pacing felt a bit off for a novel I wrote once apon a time. And I had no idea what that meant. So I had to look it up. And yes, it was only last year so I really should have known. I fixed the pacing and the book sold. Rah.


4.     Pathetic attempts at writing the sexy stuff
I’m very happy with the Blaze I wrote a few months ago (still waiting to see if my editor agrees on that, though). I didn’t have any problems putting sexy scenes in it. Ditto my Shomi book. Why? Because I crafted the story around those scenes to make them integral to the plot and character development (at least, I’d like to think so). However, as a writer I am not naturally, nor are my storylines, sexually driven. I keep forgetting that. Heaps of sexual tension? Yes. Explicit writing? Not so much. Then I come across a line in my first draft like, “she was swept away by another wave of pleasure.” Ugh. Gag me. It’s so not my voice and it reads as if I’m trying to hard to write “romance” the way I think it should be rather than what my story needs. Sometimes less is more. Much, much, much less.


5.     Humor that falls flat
Humor is subjective. Absolutely. But since I write “light and quirky” paranormals, I need at least some laughs along the way. Depending on my mood when I write the first draft, this may need to be added at a later date. And some of the humor I write when I’m not feeling humorous is pretty bad, even by my low standards. And my standards are very low. But in a good way.


6.     La, la, la, I like cheese
This is what I (and one of my beta-readers) call it when a character is faced with horrific trials and tribulations, her life is exploding all around her, and she’s all “so what’s for dinner tonight?” Realistic reactions are important. I’m getting better at this. In Fanged & Fabulous I actually worked in the la, la, la, I like cheese character reaction by having Sarah state that she was so worried about everything that she was forgetting to worry. Uh, yeah.


7.     White room writing
Remember that scene in the Matrix when Neo and Morpheus are standing in the white space waiting for the program to be loaded to give them the background and place they’re supposed to be in? I have long stretches where it seems as if my characters are standing in just such a location. No description. No bodily movement (so to speak), just flat dialogue. I hate writing description. So I usually need to add this in, sparingly, since some scenes with fast moving conversations don’t need it


8.     Telling vs. showing
I must admit, I don’t spend too much time worrying about this during my first draft. Ditto adverbs and passive voice. But when I’m doing a read-through, the parts that really need work usually stand up and wave at me by being boring and ugly and I know I need to fix them.


9.     Passage of time during story
If you have one scene in the morning and the next scene at night, you’re going to have to account for the hours in between somehow unless your characters have a time machine (sometimes knocking them unconscious for hours at a time is one way I deal with this. My characters really hate me). Also, if the story takes place on a Sunday night and your characters are hanging out at a mall, it’s good to keep in mind that malls aren’t open on Sunday nights. At least not around here. This is mostly directed at myself.


10. Shifting character descriptions
If your hero has ice blue eyes on page 18, he shouldn’t have amber eyes on page 75. Unless the paranormally shift for a good reason. And being inspired by Edward Cullen is not a good enough reason. Mmm… Edward.

2 comments to “Ten Things: Second Drafts & Beta-reads”

  1. Stargazer
     · January 5th, 2009 at 12:22 pm · Link

    Hi! Great top ten list…I think I do ALL of them. (slap hand on forehead)
    I hate writing details too, why is that you think??

  2. Amy
     · January 5th, 2009 at 5:11 pm · Link

    Great list, I’m going to tape it to my head so that I’ll remember these things. I am VERY bad for number one. Even when I think I got them all, it’s like cancer to my drafts. Lord.

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