A Novel Observed #29 – Second Draft – Plot Lines

Second Draft

Writing The Second Draft

So, having got all the clay dug up and roughly shaped into the lump that is the first draft of No Time To Stand And Stay, it’s now time to start shaping the pot that will eventually become the finished novel. And that begins here, with the second draft.

Before I jump in and start ripping it all to pieces, which usually means I end up going over and over the first two chapters, there are two ‘overview’ tasks that need to be done.

Firstly, I need to consider the Main Character Plot Lines. If this was a more ‘plot driven’ book like Montgomery’s Battle With Atlantis, which I’ve just sent to the Beta Readers, I’d just consider the main plot lines, but as this novel is character driven, I’m going with main character plot lines. The aim here is to work out what the character plot lines are, so I can ensure they make sense, have continuity and are clear.

Secondly, I need to look at all the Minor Characters that appear in the book. The problem with the characters is that, as most of them didn’t exist when I was planning the novel, they have a tendency to be somewhat flat and lifeless. The aim here is to give them some aims, desires, conflicts and things of that nature, to know what they look like and to give them a purpose in the overall story.

In this post, we’ll look at:

Main Character Plot Lines

Sebastian – there are really three plot arcs to Sebastian’s character, as follows:

  1. Relationship with the countryside: this is the main plot arc in the book, so a clear, step-by-step progression needs to be demonstrated. The pivot point is the air rifle shooting, so before that, his attitude to the countryside needs to be dark, and maybe the book should be slightly darker. After… the opposite.
  2. Relationship with Emma: the second most important arc is the Sebastian/Emma love story. I feel fairly happy with this aspect of the novel, but as I read through the book, checking the other plot lines, I’ll tighten this up too.
  3. His Appearance: I haven’t made enough of the ‘before’ image of Sebastian, and so the ‘after’ image kinda falls somewhat flat. Need to make more of his clothes, his ‘products’ and their smells etc., maybe the constant combing of his hair, that sort of thing.

Neil – funnily enough, there isn’t a specific plot arc for Neil. I think this is because he is the rock on which Sebastian’s life in Steepleford is built.

Virginia – at some point during the first draft, her desire to be ‘treated like a princess’ emerged. This birthed her desire to make herself over and so, in some ways, feel better about herself. This needs to be seeded at the outset and hinted at throughout, so it makes more of an impact when it culminates in her appearance at the village fayre. Others in the village also need to get involved, and maybe her brother, Donald, could mention it to Sebastian in one of their encounters.

Emma – see “Relationship with Emma” above. Possibly also worth hinting at her desire to escape the countryside.

Donald – as the first draft developed, Donald’s desire to transform the pub and make it work really began to grow. Again, this needs to be seeded early on, maybe with him complaining about his attempts at improving the place, which didn’t work and therefore his disillusionment by the time Sebastian first arrives. Maybe make the first mention of making the pub work could come from Sebastian, thus igniting Donald’s interest and subsequent inclination.

Mac – when he first appears, the butcher is quite grumpy, even surly, towards Sebastian, but this is never really explained – it just changes suddenly. One way to explain this initial enmity would be to make it the result of his unfortunate love affair in London, which Sebastian’s arrival (from London) reminds him of, thus depressing him. The other thing we need to build on is Mac’s shyness, his reticence to ‘woo’ Mrs Standfield. He should be much more nervous about going on the date!

Mrs Standfield – her character has shrunk somewhat compared to how I originally imagined her, mostly seen sitting down or running the shop, without any specific desires or conflicts etc. Perhaps she should mention Mac to Sebastian in a slightly out-of-character fashion? Her first appearance on the Sunday probably needs some dialogue as she’s completely silent throughout!

London Friends – there are three roles these friends need to fulfil, and while they are not often mentioned, they still need to be there. Firstly, they are the ones who send him. Secondly, they are the ones who keep him there, thanks to the email Sebastian receives about the bets. And thirdly, they need to emphasise how much he seems to have changed during the week.