Last week I posted about the first-draft process for writing my short stories. But the first draft is quite literally just the beginning. The initial two to eight hour time investment tends to take another twenty or thirty hours to turn into something I’d even consider shopping around.
Before I start my second draft, I outline. I place the story as it exists in an outline, and I break out the settings, the characters (in short stories there are almost always only one or two major characters), and the plot. I think about things like where the beginning, middle, pinch points, and end are, what the themes are. I write a little more about the characters, what are their backgrounds and motivations, what do they want out of the situation. I spend about five or six sentences fully describing each setting, including nonvisual details like sounds, smells, and tactile feelings.
From there I move onto my second draft. The second draft is usually based on the first; I have only once entirely rewritten a new story after the first draft. As I go back through the first draft, I add in setting descriptions so that it isn’t so white-roomy. I change dialogue to better reflect the characters. I restructure the story, sometimes moving entire sections around to better fit my outline and the pinch points. I change parts of scenes, adding in new parts and subtracting old parts to fit the themes and make the story more round. The second draft is usually where the hardest work comes in, and I’m rarely able to do it in one sitting. Usually it’s a three or four day process.
For the third draft, I print out the story and focus on the tiny details. Do the paragraphs flow from beginning to end, does the dialogue sound natural and fit the characters, are any of the sentence structures repetitive. How does the pacing of the story flow overall. Where are the spelling and grammar mistakes. This usually takes about two days.
Then I do my final read. The final read I try to do as if I’m reading the story for the first time, so I’ve usually set the story aside for a while before I pick it back up again. If it doesn’t speak to me, I’ll go back to the second draft stage and rework it again. If it feels complete to me, I’ll start trying to shop it around. But shopping a short story around is an entirely different process that I’ll get into in another post.