Second Draft Journal #1: Now What?

Since December 2014, I’ve been working on the second draft of my work in progress, Devil May Care. It is a YA paranormal romance with a heavy dose of social commentary, based in a world where everyone is born with a devil on their shoulder, signifying them to embody one of thirteen sins.

I’ve written about my WIP in random posts on this blog since then, but now I’m starting a series of posts strictly dedicated to logging my journey to a second (and better) version of this novel. It’s called my Second Draft Journal and it will talk about everything from writers block to character arcs, from social commentary to plot development. Here’s the first installment.

After two months of not touching the word document “Devil May Care take 2” because of school and stress, I finally opened it back up. After I had a mini heart attack while I waited for all of the pages to load (I always feel like pages will randomly go missing), I started in on the arduous process of reacquainting myself with the 50,000 words I’d already written. This involved reading all 148 pages and creating a plot spreadsheet for myself to keep track of everything (something I had been too lazy to do earlier in the year). I’ve talked about using Excel to organize plots before; basically each cell is a scene and each row is a day. I also created a spreadsheet to keep track of my characters, and I brought back the one I was using to keep track of how many words I write a day.

words written
to keep track of words written
to keep track of characters
to keep track of characters

The plot chart is color-coded based on how much I liked each scene. Dark green is the best, dark red is the worst, lighter shades of each represent somewhere in between, and gray is for scenes I just don’t care about. I love that this gives me a visual layout of the areas of the book I need to fix and the areas where I hit a groove and everything works. Eventually I’ll copy the spreadsheet and color-code it by what each scene is about (which subplot it moves along), but right now I’m just trying to keep track of which scenes I like, which ones I hate, and which ones are just whatever.

spreadsheet 1
here are the first few days

Yes, I am a little crazy when it comes to excel. I never learned how to do math with it, but I know how to do this really well.

Then I made the mistake of using the comment feature on Excel to jot myself notes about what was wrong with the scenes I didn’t like. Some of these notes are constructive, reminding me of elements that could be added to certain scenes and reminding me of what needs to be fixed. Others reveal my fraying sanity. I’m basically talking to myself, asking questions that I don’t have the answer to and releasing my frustration:

  • Who the frick knows

  • Well written but is it too long??? GAH

  • maybe I like it maybe its awful — EMOTION SUCKS — ook

  • Is this foreshadowing or just giving it away???

Lots of question marks, not a lot of answers.

It took three days to get through all of what I’ve written. And now I face my real problem:

I have to start writing again.

And the scary thing is that tracking the colors of my spreadsheet, the quality of my writing has been steadily improving, which is what happens when you get into the habit of writing and get comfortable with your piece’s voice and start to gain some confidence. But I got out of that habit. Now I’ve got a blank page and the sick feeling that anything I write at this point will be noticeably shaky compared to what came before. Which is a confidence killer if ever there was one.

So I’m just staring at my computer, thinking, “Now what?”

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