How to Write a Book in Four Drafts

I’ve learnt a huge amount from writing this blog. One of the most important being, ‘you’ve always got something else you can learn.’ But now I’m back to writing a first draft, I find all this information on writing techniques buzzing around my head is getting in the way.

It’s like buying a new house and trying to re-decorate everything at once. Nobody chooses the colour scheme, paints the woodwork, puts up the wallpaper, and changes the light fittings all at the same time.

Learning so many wonderful and useful things about writing craft is all well and good, but I’m beginning to feel like I’ve gone to B&Q and bought the whole shop, so now I have no idea where to start.

What I need to remember is a first draft is just that; the first draft of many. So I’ve come up with a plan and it compares surprisingly well to my decorating techniques.

How to Write a Book in Four Drafts

First Draft

Before I decorate a room, I spend time with paint charts, and curtain swatches, and all the other things I use to work out the colour and tone I want to achieve. I grab a bit of everything and throw it into the mix, and along the way I discover which colours clash or contrast or perfectly match, and how much I want of each in my room. I do the same with my first draft, only instead of colours I’m finding my characters, and seeing how their stories shape up. I get it all on the page then take a good look at it to see what’s there.

I realise there are those who plot every aspect of their story before putting pen to paper, but then I’m sure there’s software available which lets you create a design for your room in every detail before picking up a paintbrush. Stick to whatever works for you.

Second Draft

Once I know the colour scheme and the design, I like to see blocks of paint go up on the walls and ceiling, and then the lines and form which comes from painting the woodwork. I like to see the structure taking shape in my design. It’s the same with my stories. Having achieved a mess of first draft, I go though and impose a structure: scene and sequel; goal, conflict, resolution; emotion, dilemma, decision; stimulus and response. I work on my plot.

Third Draft

Next comes the Wallpaper. I love putting up wallpaper, it can completely change the feel of a room. It adds something extra. It brings a dull room to life. I think of it as the descriptions we use to make our story worlds seem real. During my third draft I concentrate on the way I’ve integrated the story into the surroundings, and whether I have given the setting it’s own part to play in the story.

Fourth Draft

And finally there are the fixtures and fittings. The curtains, the light switches, the choice of radiator. All the things which make the room uniquely yours, in the same way that your prose gives you an unique and individual style. In my fourth draft I concentrate on my word choices.

So, now I’ve got that worked out, I’d better get on and finish.

picture c/o hovercraft doggy

If you have enjoyed this post – you might like to see how I put my methods into practice in my other work by reading SNAP by Lizzie Hexter, available from,,,, iTunes and Kobo.

9 thoughts on “How to Write a Book in Four Drafts

  1. I am working on a first draft as well, Lorrie, after publishing the first book and learning so much along that windy trail. I can relate to your phrase about all that getting in the way. I wrote out a 5-page overview of the story and I am trying to stick to it. When that doesn’t happen I ask myself why. If the new bits are better, I add them. In other words I don’t let my planning get in the way of my on-the-spot creativity. 🙂

  2. darsword says:

    Reblogged this on Darswords and commented:
    I liked reading this way of looking at the different drafts.

  3. Reblogged this on Phil Partington, author page and commented:
    This isn’t necessarily how I write a novel (I tend to plot, plot plot, then write, write write and then rewrite and edit til I’ve spent waaay too much time on it), but everyone’s different. I love the analogy and it raises an interesting question for novelists: How do YOU go about writing your novel?

  4. ejrunyon says:

    I think the more you write the more easier your voice shows up in all your pages. Description ends up being something you see from the start, not something that needs adding in later. But for novices your listing is great. and may well kick off some good edits for someone just starting in on this ‘writing thing’. If you need more incentive or ideas, take a look at my blog for things to consider when re-writing. There are several posts in the archives (by month) that might hep with your ‘re-decorating’. Good Luck.

    • One of the things I love about writing is that every one does it differently, and it’s nice to find a method which works for you. Good luck with the blog.

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