3rd Draft: Week One, Keeping it Simple

Are you curious what the right way is to start a novel’s third draft? I was. While what I found may not be the right way, it has surely been a better way than what I did for the second draft. After spending a year filling up multiple binders with notes for an online editing course for my first novel, I tried to coordinate a one-pass round of notes to save time. Two months later, and like sixty thousand words of notes across five categories, I had a ton of info, but no real idea where to start aside from rewriting the first chapter. A few pieces of advice I received last week has given me hope in a much simpler, more effective first pass.

The first piece of information came from Lane Diamond of Evolved Publishing. You can read his whole comment to my post, “A New Year’s Resolution to Edit the Right Way.” The part of Lane’s advice that really helped today was:

Step 2: Focus on the essential story elements. Does the plot move quickly and logically, and finish with a satisfying bang? Do you give the reader a moment to come down after the bang — a denouement?
Step 3: (Related to Step 2) I assume you already have an outline, but now is the time to flesh it out a little more. Include a few sentences for each chapter, describing the central conflict and how it advances, key character development, special notes on setting, etc.

Step one was not worrying about line edits, which is as simple as it is easy to forget. But, aside from knowing not to edit the prose before you know if your efforts will be wasted on a scene that doesn’t make the final cut, I didn’t really understand how to proceed. Lane’s advice was just what I needed. Editing is a difficult, strenuous task, but today’s work made the time fly, and encouraged me that I could finish the first pass within the week. The difference between this strategy and my 2nd draft strategy will be that the notes I have now will be so much easier to navigate, so that the next pass will build off of the first. When I finished the first pass from the last draft’s edit, I felt like I had another book to read. At that point it became easier to just keep rewriting, then to fit the new chapter into my outline.

I also listened to a podcast by Dragon Page Cover to Cover #459 called, “How and Where to Get Started.” Co-host, Mike Stackpole, a NYT Best selling author, is helping co-host, Michael Mennenga, edit a book he hasn’t looked at in like ten years. I took some notes from Mr. Stackpole’s advice in this show that fit alongside with Lane’s.

20 min mark: Write in a general outline format the shining stars of story and character.

20:35: Scene inventory: Line out three things that happen in each chapter (single line items); at end of each item, content label (highly magical, dark chapter, romance) to get a sense of general flow. This helps identify key development points for characters (are they too spread out?), or if you have too many combat chapters in a row. Then you can easily shuffle or rearrange them to make it flow better.

What I got out of this advice was the guidance I needed to plow through five chapters today. At that rate, I’ll finish this pass by Saturday. From there I’ll work on Lane’s “Step 4.” I’m excited because I feel this method will help me not need to rewrite the whole draft like I did last time. I will rewrite sections and write new sections, but this way I’ll have a structure in which to fit these writings instead of the chaos I had last time.

About Timothy C. Ward

Timothy C. Ward is a Hugo nominated producer for Adventures in SciFi Publishing, who has been lost, broke and surfed with sharks on the other side of the world. He now dreams of greater adventures from his keyboard in Des Moines, Iowa. This summer he released two novels: his second Sand Divers book, Scavenger: A.I., where two parents use an ancient technology to fight a reproducing A.I. while trying to resurrect their deceased infant; and Godsknife: Revolt, an apocalyptic battle for godhood in the rift between Iowa and the Abyss.

7 comments on “3rd Draft: Week One, Keeping it Simple

  1. Glad to hear my advice helped, Tim, and to hear a successful author echo that advice. 🙂 Tear it up! Err… break a leg! Err… Git’r done! Err… you know what I mean.

  2. Okay, let me get this straight … you basically write a detailed breakdown of your book, then shuffle that outline around to figure out what works, before you gut the actual book?

    That sounds like a huge time saver, if I’m reading you right.

    • That’s it, Kessie! Here is the format I use for each chapter:
      Three major scenes – content label
      Central Conflict
      Key Character Development
      New Character/term

      It’s a little more than what Lane said, but I can’t help myself.

  3. […] 3rd Draft Update: 22 of 30 chapters have notes as described in my last post. Advertisement GA_googleAddAttr("AdOpt", "1"); GA_googleAddAttr("Origin", "other"); […]

  4. […] quote "Pay that man his money!"Those who remember my post, 3rd Draft: Week One, Keep it Simple, might be asking, “What about weeks 2-9?” Well, this isn’t a science. It took me […]

  5. […] was in order. I wrote a few blog posts about my note taking and preparation for the next step (3rd Draft: Week One, Keeping it Simple; 3rd Draft: Week Ten, Seeking Professional Editing). The funny part is, after concluding to pay a […]

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