Author Tip Tuesday – 5 Steps to Writing Quickly

January 17, 2017

Do you want to write that first draft faster?

Woman Typing Madly

I developed 5 steps that can get you from idea to publishing in the nick of time.

Here's what I do:


I discovered the step sheet concept from James N Frey's How to Write a Damn Good Mystery (recommend reading). A step sheet is a document that identifies all the scenes in your story. It's not the same as a beat sheet (see my post on beat sheets here), but you can use a beat sheet to create your step sheet.

Here is an example of the step sheet from Twinkle Little Star.

I use Scrivener to plan and plot each of these steps. (Love Scrivener! See my post on this most helpful author tool here.)

Screen Shot 2017-01-16 at 10.13.36 AM

I save this as TLS – blocking to begin the next step.

Block out scenes with location, dialogue, situation.
With the info on the step sheet, block out the scene with whatever comes to you. Do you see your characters, give wide brush strokes on description. What are your characters saying here? Run some dialogue. Don't worry about actions or even speech tags. Where is this scene taking place. Put your characters there. Then move on to the next card note in the step sheet. Blocking word count is usually between 200 and 1200.
I find I can move through this step more quickly if I dictate it into my dictaphone and transcribe it through Dragon Dictation. Doing it this way does require more editing, though.
Once you have your story blocked, you can more easily see if the plot, subplots, (with mysteries, the red herrings and twists) and character arcs are working. This is where you move scenes around, add scenes, delete scenes. You want to make sure everything is in place and in the right place before moving on to the next step.
Flesh out scenes making them 3 dimensional with setting, character traits/senses/arcs, actions and motivations. Make sure you have a complete story arc. This is where you can identify missing scenes or scenes to be cut.
This is where you make your story sparkle and shine and come to life with details. You want to focus on your sentence structure and syntax. Make sure your reader can “see” the characters and settings. Get your characters moving with action along with the dialogue. When you've completed this step you'll have your first draft.
Read front to back. Each scene must stand alone
Now's the time to read each scene on its own. Read your manuscript back to front (from the end to the beginning) so that your brain isn't thinking ahead, but focusing on the scene at hand. Imagine that you are revealing this scene alone, without any preamble. Will the writing impress?
Read your manuscript again from front to back/beginning to end, and fine tune.
I highly recommend you send your finished manuscript to a line editor and then after that a copy editor before publishing.
Hope this helps!

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