- Approach with a fresh perspective: this is a mighty difficult skill to perfect. Taking some time off helps. Not thinking about writing at all for several weeks helps too. I took about three weeks off to proofread something else so that I could forget about my novel entirely.
- Keep a copy of the old draft: this is for peace of mind as well as being able to check the first draft if you think you've changed too much. I've just realised I've forgotten to do this and will have to copy the original chapters from one of three memory sticks I use.
- Slash with vigour: anything that is even slightly wrong, chop it out, whether it's a bad description, a superfluous paragraph or a dull scene. If your attention wanders then the reader's will too. I spent ages researching my heroine's clothes and what sort of boots would be appropriate - and nearly died of boredom while reading it, so whittled it down to about three words rather than half a page.
- Don't be afraid of drastic changes: I've changed the way my heroine looks and she's suddenly much more alive on the page. I felt rather sorry to see my original heroine go but it just wasn't working - she was the wrong flavour entirely for the novel. Anyway, I can always resurrect those particular features in another story somewhere else, so it's not like she's died.
- The reader's point of view: I virtually never think about the reader. This is a terrible fault of mine. Although, actually, I do think of the reader when I long for them, when I want to share my ideas with them, but when I'm actually writing, what readers like isn't something that concerns me. With my first draft dead on the page, I had to change this attitude entirely. I was being subtle to the point of bland and even I wouldn't want to read anything where the drama sits so far under the skin you can barely see it. So with that in mind, that the reader would probably like to see a bit more ACTION, I'm trying to do just that. (I'd better go and look at that dull chapter 4 again....)
- MOST IMPORTANT OF ALL: take yourself out the novel. I don't know how else to put this. I tend to sink into my writing so that I'm so far inside the character's head that I am the character. I feel everything they do and find my days mirroring theirs, which can be a tad spooky. This worked during very intense scenes when writing the first draft, but not all of the novel is intense. I need to be able to stand back and allow my heroine some freedom to be herself because not everything she thinks/says/does is what I would think/say/do. Most writers don't seem to have this problem. They're able to produce characters which are quite unlike themselves - they're inventing people. I tend to BE the people I write, rather than invent them. It says much that my secondary characters are often more believable (in my eyes anyway.) This probably just means I'm bad writer. Or a self-centred one. Or too personal. Or too autobiographical. Or maybe it's just the way I write.
I should say that this is probably the first time I've ever actively gone from writing the first draft, stopping just moments before the Big Reveal, and sitting down consciously to write a second draft. In the past I've worked on sections when needed, going back when something doesn't work, reworking when something fails. But then I've never had an entire novel fail on me before so this is a new experience. I'm having to invent ways of approaching this second draft. A lighter touch might be the key.