Polishing a Diamond in the Rough—aka, Your First Draft

I fear the second draft. While other writers use this time to carve their rough diamonds to perfection, I stare at my manuscripts and wonder how to start. What do I peel away? What words will be left behind? Will the draft only need stitches, here or there, a slight Botox fill, or total facial reconstruction? I’m afraid of what the story will become—if my efforts have even affected it in a positive way.1434755905625

As the creator of my story, I’m too invested, too in love with the original thought. I play the role of mother, loving her child no matter which stage of life they currently exist in: from infant concept, to the troublesome first draft, to its maturing subsequent phases. Sometimes we are so connected to our stories its difficult to know, or realize, how they can be improved.

Enter the beta reader, the confidante, the editor and instigator of change. In simpler words: a second set of eyes. They are integral to taking your story a step further, for getting it to shine just a little brighter.

I had this thought the other day, of the vital role your second (and sometimes third) reader fills, when a friend asked a question, after reading my short story, that left me stumped for an answer.

“You don’t need to include the answer in your story,” she said after watching me blunder for an explanation for her question. “But as the author, it would be good to know, so the answer comes out organically in the words.”

Even if your story is only a thousand words, you should know everything there is to know about the world you created, and the character’s you’ve brought to life. This is one of the many benefits of having second eyes on the story. They are the one’s who will ask the difficult questions because they are able to step back from the blood and sweat and pain of the writing process and see the story as an isolated thing. They take the words in and, hopefully, give their honest criticism.

Despite knowing this, I’ll still admit to being nervous about the second draft. I’m currently procrastinating with one short story as we speak. Yet there can be no denying the improved quality of a story when its been worked and re-worked. So, just like many others, I will grit my teeth, put pen to paper, and start trimming.

 

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