Where am I? Is this the Second Draft or the Third, or does it matter?


Still working on redrafting! Here the lines get blurry and I get bleary-eyed. When can I say the second draft is done and I’m onto the third? Or does it even matter? Maybe I should trust the “flow” and let it take me where it will.

Initially,  I started by reading the manuscript from beginning to end without a pen or pencil in hand. That was just to re-acquaint myself with what I had written. When you get up around ninety thousand words, you tend to forget what’s happened in earlier chapters. At least I do.

I made several attempts to make a summary of what happened in each chapter and also a new scroll to plot my plots. I tend to work with three plots: The main [action] plot, a subplot and an extra plot. I always hope that the first subplot may present a contrary view to the main plot. That third plot will help resolve the conflict in the main and first subplot.  At this point, the main question is—Does it hang together? And do the main plot and subplots accomplish what I just said?

I suppose this is where I’m at—meaning that I have now been through the entire manuscript with a pencil and have made copious notes of things to develop [and cut or move] and have produced something resembling a coherent chapter summary.

But wait, I’ve just noticed something very important at this point somewhere between the second and third drafts. It doesn’t end the way I want it to end. Do I even know how it should end? Am I in trouble?

When in doubt, turn to the authorities. One of my favorite novelists is a Canadian,

Robertson Davies

Robertson Davies who has written numerous essays for any reader or writer.One article by him which I particularly like is Jung and the Writer. In case you haven’t noticed, I am a devoted student of Jung having been led to him by Robertson Davies many years ago.

In the article, he describes the process of writing his novel Fifth Business and his thoughts on an author’s creative process.

“When I began the book, I did not know how it would end but I trusted I would find out. This sort of explanation persuades critics [Davies has many choice words for critics] that he is an idiot savant, who does not know what he is doing. But that is a misunderstanding of the creative process. The author may not know consciously every detail of his story when he begins it, but his Unconscious knows and it is from the Unconscious that he works….I believe that the writer’s work is the product of the totality of his being, which invents far more effectively than the logical surface of his thought.”

Isn’t my answer right there? From this I can conclude that even when you don’t know where you are going next in the writing and redrafting, you must take heart. Your Unconscious knows and presumably it will tell you in due course.  Sometimes the manuscript seems like a lose bag of unrelated things, stories, people and events. It’s like a writhing snake. If you make a change in one place, everything else can get off-kilter. But I like to think that at least it means that the story is still alive and kicking.

And, just think! With the ending up in the air, you have lots of options before you. But seriously, it is necessary to develop a sense of trust in yourself and in your own methods. If you trust your talent, it will come.

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About Mary E. Martin

Mary E. Martin grew up in Toronto, Canada. After earning an Honors Degree in History at the University of Toronto, she graduated with her law degree from Queens University, Kingston, Ontario. In 1973, she was called to the Bar of Ontario and began the general practice of law in Toronto, with emphasis on real estate, wills and estates and elder-care law. This law practice of more than 30 years was a great inspiration for The Osgoode Trilogy ("Conduct in Question," "Final Paradox" and "A Trial of One.") Her fourth novel, “The Drawing Lesson,” will be the first in the next trilogy, provisionally entitled “The Trilogy of Rmembrance.” She is also a photographer particularly with respect to her travels. She has had two commercial photography shows. Married in 1973, she and her husband live in Toronto. They have three adult children.
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