The First Three Drafts: Laying Down the Basics for a Good Book

Whipping a book into shape takes time and effort. Growing something from an idea into a fully fledged story with characters and events will require stamina and lots of rewriting.

One way to make that process easier is to implement a great drafting system, one where the first three drafts will provide you with what you’ll need to create the foundation for your story.

Start With The Bones

Your first draft just needs to get the story out. Write the bare minimum, whatever words you need to get the pages filled and the plot moving in a forward direction. Even basic sentences such as, “He walked from one room to the next”, are enough at this stage to start the bones of what will be your book.

Fatten It Up

The second draft needs to take those bones and add some meat. This is where you fill in your detail and thicken your sentences. Celebrate the completion of the first draft with a feast and add as much detail as possible. Take your basic sentences and expand on them. For example…

“He walked from one room to the next.”

Becomes…

“He took a step, one foot, and then another, in front of each other, until he had cleared the big, wide doorway and crossed over the emptiness of the abandoned hallway to complete his arrival in the next room.”

There’s more detail, interest and atmosphere added to the sentence, which is what a great second draft should do. This is also the time to add to the plot and establish your characters and their traits.

Get Lean

The third draft is all about trimming the excess. Overindulging in the words was fun, but now it’s time to cut the fat. Get rid of anything that doesn’t advance the plot, add to the characters and story, and any excess words that clutter your sentences.

That fattened example sentence goes from…

“He took a step, one foot, and then another, in front of each other, until he had cleared the big, wide doorway and crossed over the emptiness of the abandoned hallway to complete his arrival in the next room.”

To this:

“He took a step, one foot in front of the other, until he had cleared the wide doorway and crossed the abandoned hall to arrive in the next room.”

The sentence is now tighter and leaner. The needless words are cut, but the interest and enough detail still remain. This is the purpose of the third draft. It will allow you to see the overall story with the added details, but it isn’t weighed down by the unnecessary.

While drafting is as a personal process,  and it’s up to you to decide how many drafts it’ll take to complete your story, you should find it easier to work on your subsequent drafts after beginning with these three. Starting with the bones, fattening, and then trimming your drafts will allow you to establish the story, add detail to your fictional world, and then polish it down to the essentials—all of which will help to create a good book.

– K.M. Allan

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7 thoughts on “The First Three Drafts: Laying Down the Basics for a Good Book

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  1. I’m sure I comment on ALL of your blog posts, but they’re just too good!
    I am currently on my first draft, and working on my secondary POV character, a detective. I’ve been feeling guilty because I’m pretty much just writing dialogue, with no emotion, atmosphere or description. Your post has reminded me that I can save all that for the second draft, and it’s made me really excited! Time to get this damn story FINISHED, even if it’s the most basic of story telling for now!
    Thank you, for another AWESOME post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re welcome! I start off with just dialogue too. I never work in the details or emotions until at least the second draft. That’s the best thing about writing, you have as many drafts as you want to get it right. Thank you so much for reading and commenting. I love to hear what you think about my posts, and I’m so glad that there’s other writers that can relate and are going through the same experiences as I am.

      Liked by 2 people

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