Writers and creators work in different ways. Some progress slowly, deliberating over every word until it’s perfect – these are usually the ones who don’t need to do many drafts of their novel.

Others like me, race ahead at a million miles, writing down everything that’s in their head before they forget it, then do many drafts to polish and add layers.

I’ve just finished the next draft of a YA novel I’ve been working on for a long time. I started it in my early days as writer before I really knew much about plotting or story flow. So a lot has changed from the early drafts and I’ve done quite a major structural edit.

I think this has made my story stronger, but it hasn’t been without its problems. Moving chunks of your story around can cause your narrative to become disjointed and inconsistent so that’s something you have to look out for in your next draft. In my story for example, my main character’s brother stole their mum’s car and for the sake of the story structure I had to move this event to the middle of the novel. When I read my draft, I discovered that my main character was now talking in Chapter Four about her brother stealing the car when it hadn’t actually happened yet.

I marked this on the manuscript but I also added it to my ‘Notes for editing the next draft’.

I keep this running list as I’m working on a draft and I find it’s a really helpful tool. It has all sorts of notes about character, setting, themes, plot consistencies etc. It probably won’t make much sense to you, but fortunately it does to me. It’s just a great way of keeping track of all the detail that becomes a mish mash in my head if I don’t write it down – all the things I need to look out for or add to my next draft. Here’s the list for the next draft of my current novel – some are things to add, some are changes, some are reminders of things to keep in the foreground:

  • school musical
  • sort bits with counsellor (that’s one of the problems arising from restructuring the story)
  • make sure plot flows
  • eliminate too many references to Cleo
  • Maintain retro clothes theme
  • sewing costumes
  • What happened to Mum’s car? (That was the stolen one)
  • More showing less telling (that’s on my permanent list)
  • More setting and character detail (I tend to just get the story action down first)
  • Different teen settings  – teens don’t always sit around on lounge suites all day
  • Other settings – party, school, train, sports training, sleepover, nightclub, cafe, milk bar, railway station
  • Exercise routine
  • Teen Girl (that’s a magazine)
  • White ceiling, cream curtains and pastel walls (mc is redecorating her bedroom)

These aren’t all the notes, they’re just a sample to show you what I mean. The other thing I have done with this manuscript is a chapter by chapter summary to help me ensure that everything is happening in the right order. Some agents actually ask for a chapter summary as part of your submission.

This is what one of my chapter summaries looks like, but you can use whatever format works for you:


ACTION: Tara has to deal with consequences of kids at school finding out about Ed.

SETTING: School yard at lunch time

TIME: Friday

Now that I have my editing notes and chapter summaries I feel ready to tackle the next draft, knowing that I have suggestions and solutions for structural and detail improvements to give my story more continuity and depth.

I’d love to know how you prepare for your next draft. Feel free to share your tips in the comments section of this post.

Happy writing:-)



  1. Thanks for a great post, Dee. It’s always interesting to see how different people write.

    I use the list as well. It would make no sense to other people either. I do it on pink cards or the other side of typed paper. I never use a clean piece of A4.
    I also mark where I get bored reading and want to leap ahead with green highlighter slashes, as I know that needs to be fixed up.
    I like to leave it overnight or even longer and think it’s really good (for me) to go somewhere different for the read through. It’s as if I see with different eyes. I also have to have a pen I like to use for this. A mid blue. Never red.
    I always have to run a word check as every piece I write I seem to overuse one word like “had” or “just”. It’s usually a different word each time and I’m conscious of overusing it, but pick it up after the first draft.

    After writing this reply, I realise how many rituals I have.


  2. Thanks Alison,

    These are all great tips. I giggled when I read the ‘overused’ word piece. Glad to see I’m not the only one who has a tendency to do this:)

    I must admit, it wasn’t till I started doing these tips and thinking about how I write that I realise I have a particular way of doing things, too.


  3. Dee, what a great post- very relevant to me as I’ve just completed a manuscript I’d been writing on for awhile- (three years) my tactic is to leave it sit for a few weeks- then come back to it with fresh eyes and read right through- see if it flows if it does what I wanted it to do.

    Then I print it out and with a note book and pen- mark the manuscript with editing changes- write down character traits again and names and see that they follow also… if parts move me to tears- then ok its worked. and if I’m jubilant at the end, then its worked too- luckily the manuscript did this for me yesterday- now to my biggest critics- several of my grown up kids…

  4. Dee, I find I have to read the story aloud to hear when the words are not quite there – I love that part of drafting. The hardest part is the tying together misfit scenes throughout the plot, plus character problems that haven’t been sorted out previously.

    Just come across this interesting bit of help that might prove very useful for me … have yet to test it out. It’s Linda Gray’s Scene Tracker. Here’s the link if anyone would like to try it. http://scribesisters.blogspot.com/2010/10/scenes-ultimate-in-show-dont-tell.html

  5. Great post, Dee. Redrafting and editing seems different for everyone. I do a lot of editing on screen, but have to admit that I have do hard copy edits too when going through mss start to finish. I pick up a lot of things on the hard copy that I miss on screen. I think it has a way of making me slow down and really read, and see more of the below the surface problems i.e. motivations, possible twists, unnoticed inferences polar to my intention etc. My current computer mss is full of red notations to self, making suggestions, reminders to recheck research item, and all the type of notes you have on your list. Some things need to looked back at a later stage to see if I’ve achieved something and I take them from draft to draft until I can resolve them. Chris

  6. Have to agree Sheryl – I have recently started reading what I write to our 8 year old (because now he INSISTS) and I’ve never found a more powerful tool for picking up problems. Not just in terms of missing words, or inconsistent pieces of the story puzzle, but also for the general flow of the text. If it reads well aloud, it seems to flow even more smoothly in the mind. Scott.

    ps And yeah, great post Dee!

    I also rearranged a story that I started quite a while back and, on reading it months later, found a character driving around in a car that had been crashed a few chapters ago, and a few paragraphs about a character’s cat that had actually died halfway through the book!

  7. Thanks, Scott,

    Reading aloud is great isn’t it?

    I know what you mean about rearranging things. I did exactly the same sort of thing in a draft I was working on recently; had someone driving around in a car that had been stolen in previous chapters and in early chapters had them talking about the stolen car before it had even been stolen. These are the things that can happen when you restructure. Reading aloud is a really good way to pick them up – especially when reading to sharp-minded kids:)

    Thanks for your input.


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