Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Writing in Layers--Six Steps to Improve Your First Draft

I think the editing process is flat out a pain in the ass. I really hate doing it, and yet, I can't seem to get my prose perfect the first time. Over the years, I've been given lots of checklists and revision tips, but recently a ghostwriting client provided me with a writing layers tool that is excellent for when you finish the first draft of a novel. I'm going to share a few steps of this tool with you in the hopes that it will help make the second draft of your novel stronger.

1. If you are writing a romance, check to make sure that every scene makes the reader worry about whether or not the main couple will end up together. If we aren't worried, if things are too perfect, change that scene until we are worried or cut it altogether.

2. Is the main character doing something he/she wants or is he/she just sitting around waiting for something to happen? We want to root for our protagonist so make them proactive.

3. Step into your antagonist's shoes and think about things from their point of view. Make a list everything you'd do to stop the protagonist.

4. Are your characters doing what you'd want to do in their situation or scene?Keep in mind, I'm not talking about what we would do, but what we would want to do if we actually had the courage or guts to do it.

5. What is the worst thing that could happen to a character in each scene? It doesn't have to happen, but it should make us worry that it might.

6. Every scene should make us feel like we walked in on the middle of a conversation--not the beginning of one. Start as close to the conflict as you can.

I have many more tips to share with you regarding cleaning up that first draft, but the above should be enough to get you started. You can either do them one at a time or you can do them all as you go through the novel. It's up to you!


  1. This is a great list! I've shared it and will save it, too--thanks!

  2. Great post! Someday I will write my own novel, but I've got some more living to do first.

  3. Fabulous list! Can't wait to apply it to my own writing.

  4. Better start writing. If only my writing time wasn't bookended by "Stuff You Didn't Do" and "Stuff You Should Be Doing".