On a second draft and pulling threads

For what has been a stop-start kind of three months or so, I felt a little flutter in me belly when I finished my, ahem, second draft.

Now, this is not what some people might consider a second draft: a honed, crafted, pacy 70,000 words. It is more a second draft where I have sorted out what my chapters are – in my case chapters 1 to 88 (Yes, 88).

My novel was unstructured when I finished Draft 1 at the beginning of January. So the second draft has been, in large part, about getting it into some sort of shape.



But probably the most time has been spent sowing. Yes, sowing. See I had a plot problem in the last quarter of the book, a plot development that leads to the climax. I had one idea, then changed it to another, and around Feb or so decided I had to go back to the original idea, but tweak it.

I never knew the world of pain you enter when you pull on a thread. Not only had I to change a block of chapters, around five or so, but I also had to go through other chapters, particularly towards the end, and change them, which led to something else having to be changed, and so on. It made my head spin and ache at the same time.

A third piece of work I had to do was essentially rewrite my second and third chapters (introducing my second and third characters respectively).

So, it was with a little sense of pride when, down in my mum’s house away from family and my long-suffering wife, I got to finish a second draft. The word court is 135k or so. Think that’s way too long? Well, it was over 150k at the first draft. I’m bit chuffed I have already been able to axe a number of chapters. I do feel my plot (plots) are too long and a bit complicated, so I have work to do on honing that down.first five pages

So, next stage is, I suppose, where the serious rewriting begins. I’m thinking of using a book – The First Five Pages – as my guide. It was one of the books recommended by Laurence O’Bryan on http://lpobryan.com/2013/02/05/the-7-most-useful-books-on-how-to-write-fiction-for-those-who-didnt-get-it-yet/. From a quick glance, it could well cut my word count down substantially.


About Cormac O'Keeffe

I've written a novel. And, it's going to be published. This April. Mad, or what? It's entitled 'Black Water' and is a crime novel set in Dublin's gangland, along the evocative Grand Canal. This blog is about that bumpy journey, which is about to get really exciting. You'll also find some photography on this blog, particularly snaps that relate to my novel, much of it centred along the canal. There are also some reviews, both fiction and non-fiction, many of them published in the Irish Examiner, a daily national newspaper in Ireland. I work as security correspondent there and have specialist interests in crime, drugs, policing, the justice system, communities and human rights. Both my personal life and my professional life have fed into my novel, or, rather, have been poured into it. My novel was granted a literature bursary by the Irish Arts Council in September 2014 and my journalistic work has won multiple awards from the Law Society of Ireland over many years, most recently in 2015.
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8 Responses to On a second draft and pulling threads

  1. jjtoner says:

    Great book, that Lukeman book. Go for it, Cormac!

  2. Susan Condon says:

    Well done! And I must check out that book – fast . . .

  3. CJ O'Keeffe says:

    Thanks Susan. There’s no rush though, I will be beating it into shape for a long time yet

  4. I’m almost finished my second draft of a 130,000 word children’s book…. and I know I’ll have to make more tweaks to the last few chapters, which might mean changing other bits near the start again. As you say – once you pull that thread! But changes need to be made and I suppose that’s the way of it. Nice to hear how someone else at a similar stage in the writing process is getting on though. It’s encouraging and shows I’m not the only one with these problems!
    I too had to change a surname – of my main character – when I realised it was the same as a popular teen character from a well known series of novels..and I’m glad I did!

    • PS That ‘First Five Pages’ book sounds good – might check it out!

    • CJ O'Keeffe says:

      Hi Claire. Thanks for the comment. We seem to be at a similar stage, even the word count, and now I read, with a character’s surname. I might leave my name unchanged, though. Best of wishes with the third draft.Must check out your blog.

      • Cool, thanks. I’ve been distracting myself with poetry writing recently, what with it being National Poetry Writing Month (as I randomly discovered) and also with attending writer events (although these have been useful), so I need to knuckle down with the book now. Good luck with yours too!

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