Celebrating the Second Draft

Moments ago I finished the second draft of a story. I’m sure there will be many more drafts to come between now and the deadline, but it’s time for a small celebration. I might do something wild and exciting, like going for a long walk all by myself.

Writing’s a solitary activity providing instant gratification only an introvert can appreciate. I like this aspect of writing, the lack of immediate and external punishment or reward. I’m not especially competitive with anyone but myself. Finishing any stage of a work is satisfying, and I like to take time to gloat. You heard me right. Maybe I’ll come back later and be devastated by the garbage I’ve strewn on the page. Maybe I’ll feel weighted down by the amount of work that lies ahead trying to crunch the story into shape. Maybe I’ll leave the work alone long enough to forget what I wrote and be surprised (and therefore energized) by it again. Maybe I’ll have to admit defeat and throw it out. Regardless of what happens in the future, right now it’s time to celebrate.

Second drafts are when I put my hand-written stories into the computer. I like to write by hand. I have a pen and paper fetish and I like getting away from screens. It’s more uncommitted and unfettered. More wild. Even rabid. Consequently, the first draft has tangential material that doesn’t make it into the computer: plot holes, stupid language, internal character contradictions, inappropriate philosophical ramblings, a plethora of F-bombs and so on. A whole myriad of flaws. The second draft is a big turning point. It’s hard work cleaning up the litter of a first draft.

The second draft I just finished is pretty much a disaster. The first half of the story lacks the creepy visuals that were in my head when conceptualizing the story. So all of that material needs to be tarted up. There’s a character with flat affect who is supposed to be unnerving and instead is merely…flat. The tension doesn’t start until the second half, and as a reader I’d never make it that far. Neither would you. Then there’s verb tense, the Evil Overlord Who Seeks to Destroy Me. I understand verb tense. Grammar isn’t a mystery to me. Sometimes it just seems to change on its own, like involuntary time travel. I hate when that happens.

At some point, I have to make hard decisions about who, where and when, and clean everything up. That point is not today. Or not until later today. For now, let us make merry and feel good about the second draft. It’s not all bad. The main character became a real person and grew in ways that evoke empathy. The ending altered into a more rich and complicated moment that allows the possibility of the main character’s triumph. The second half of the story is crazy with action and pretty scary, I think. Most important, the transfer from scrawl to screen is accomplished and the real editing can begin.


Published by: Joe

Joe Koch writes literary horror and surrealist trash. A Shirley Jackson Award finalist, Joe is the author of The Wingspan of Severed Hands, The Couvade, and Convulsive. Their short fiction appears in publications such as Vastarien, Southwest Review, Pseudopod, and Children of the New Flesh. He’s been a flash fiction judge for Cemetery Gates Media as well as co-editing the art horror anthology Stories of the Eye from Weirdpunk Books. Find Joe (he/they) online at horrorsong.blog and on Twitter @horrorsong.


2 thoughts on “Celebrating the Second Draft”

  1. I loved this. It’s so helpful to remember that a first draft doesn’t need to be perfect. I get so discouraged by how awful my writing is when it first hits the page. Thanks for sharing!


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