Writing the second draft

Second draft and The LevelYOU’VE HEARD it said that writing is to rewriting. But what exactly does that mean? How precisely do you go about writing the second draft of your story?

Opinions vary, but according to Syd Field, the second draft ought to, at the very least, address the structural integrity of your story.

I took his advice when writing the second draft of my second novel, The Level.

Field suggests that we approach the second draft in this way:

The Second Draft

Allow the first draft to simmer for a few weeks then come at it afresh. First off, locate and examine the main structural entities in your story:

Do you have an introduction to the ordinary world? Has the protagonist been introduced in his daily environment before things go south?

Next, find your inciting incident. Does it indeed “incite” your story? Could another incident have been more effective?

Locate your first turning point at the end of the first act. Does it set the main goal of the story in a way that is related to the inciting incident but is sufficiently stronger and moves in a different direction to it?

The second draft adjusts and repositions the narrative elements in your story—it ensures that the structure of the story is the best it can be.

Find the second turning point. Does it turn the story around in an unexpected way, adjusting the overall goal set at the first turning point?

Jump back to the midpoint next. What event forces the hero to face his inner conflict and decide between quitting or going on, against stiffer opposition?

Pinch one and two are checked next. Does your longer second act contain at least two supporting scenes or scene sequences on either side of the midpoint that reiterate and reinforce the pursuit of the goal?

Examine the confrontational scene in your third act between your hero and antagonist. Is it set in an environment which favours the antagonist and disadvantages your Hero, thus upping the tension and stakes?

Look at your resolution scene. Does it indeed resolve the issues posed by the dramatic questions of the first, second, and third acts?

Finally, check your theme – the theme can only emerge after the outcome of the final conflict has been decided: do good guys finish first, or does evil prevail? Is the answer what you had intended when you wrote the first draft? If not, could the story be improved if you allowed it to end differently, despite your original intentions? Remember the creative process has a life of its own. Sometimes it’s easier to follow the muse than to ignore her.


The second draft adjusts and repositions wayward narrative elements in your story. It improves the structural integrity of your tale.

2 thoughts on “Writing the second draft

  1. Stavros Halvatzis Post author

    The trouble with that many rewrites, Gerhrad, is that they don’t mostly come from the dramatic requirements of the work, but rather from the wants, whims, and fears of executives that flit around a project from time to time. It sometimes feels like the writer is on a spinning merry-go-round driven by willful and opinionated players in clown suits.

  2. Gerhard Pistorius

    All good advise. However it helps to have a publisher . When internationally acclaimed author Jeffrey Archer wrote Kane and Abel he was told by his publisher to rewrite the whole story : The reason being that in the Bible Kane is born before Abel where as in Archer’s original story Abel is born before Kane. When it comes to scripts one needs to approach established writers and editors who have earned their bread and butter in what is a cut throat business. In his book film critic Leon Van Nierop explains in detail how the the film adaptation of ‘ Dis ek Anna’ went though fifty rewrites before going into production. It’s thanks to sit downs with actors that separates Oscar winners from Adam Sandler comedies .

    In short : The difference between a good first draft and a great second draft is a opinion based on professionalism and not emotion.


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