I'm in the midst of my second draft. Some writers, when working on revision, will approach it by dealing with a particular issue—plot, characters, settings–and go through the entire draft, focusing on this one thing. That's not me. Here's what I do with my friend, Scrivener.
My first draft is now compiled in one document. At that point, I create a new digital index card for the beginning, the prologue. I copy and paste that part of the story in a document attached to that card. For me, it seems important to separate the pieces again to focus on the work. Then I read and revise, knowing that I can be ruthless because the original is still in the first draft copy of my manuscript. I work on it until it feels that it's time to move on to the next chapter. Oftentimes, right after I make the index card for the next chapter and move that material over, I think of something that I want to change in the preceding chapter. Then I assess the importance of the change. Do I need to work it out before I can move on? Most of the time, that answer is no. Instead I create a digital index card that follows the chapter that I want to change, and I title it, “Add to Chapter ___” and write down the notes I have or a question I need to work out. Sometimes the question will reveal a tweak that needs to occur earlier. I will then create a digital card for that chapter as well. In this way, when I start the third draft, I already have notes about things that I want to do.
I find this process to be a roller-coaster. There are days when I look at things, and I'm pleased. But there are days when I very much feel my limitations as a writer. It feels so clumsy and awkward, and it gives me another opportunity to try to be forgiving with myself, to work it to the best I can at that moment, and to know that I will other opportunities to return, but right now, it's time to move forward. Working on drafts is a great way to grapple with issues of perfectionism. (I have them. Do you?)
It also feels important to me to work on the draft each day and to listen even when I'm not sitting down to write. The other day, when I was folding clothes, I thought, “The ending isn't right.” This is the second time I've thought that. I had come up with a solution, but it turned out not to be the right one after all. But at the moment, T-shirt in hand, I dreamed up what it should be, and when I get to the ending, that's what I'm going to write (unless more is revealed). I have created my digital index card on my board, spelling it out. I wrote that card right then because you can always go back to folding clothes, and I've learned that I need to jot down these thoughts as soon as I can.
The ending has felt slippery to me this time. I'm planning this as a series of books, three, I think, and so it's that matter of knowing where one story should end and the next begin. It's a process, sometimes frustrating, sometimes really fun. The challenge for me is to approach it with curiosity and interest and wonder, to be patient, to listen, to show up.