Two Books, a Podcast, and the Beginnings of a Third Draft

Hello Friends,

It’s not quite Fall yet, but it is just starting to feel like it here. Fall has always been my favorite season and it energizes me to feel the wind pick up and the cloud cover start to creep its way inland. Hooray for Fall!


The last time I gave you an update on my work-in-progress novel, Mulrox, I had just finished the second draft. So this week I’m going to talk a bit about my process of moving from the second to the third draft.

3rd Draft Process (So far)

Read-Through and To-Do list

The first thing I did after finishing my second draft was to read the book again, making notes as I went along, but not changing anything directly.

From my first draft, I have an enormous to-do list of all the things I want to change in the book that I track in excel. I organize this primarily by scene #, but for things that apply to the larger story, I have a general section at the bottom. I use this list as I rewrite to remind myself of the ideas I had during my analysis phases.

So after reading the draft, I looked back through this list to see how much was already completed.

There were still plenty of problems left over so I created a new list, with the remaining issues and the new things I had noticed on the read-through of draft 2.


The next thing I did was sort the scenes into chapters for the first time. This is the sort of nerdy thing I get really excited about because all these pages start to suddenly feel more like a book. It also helps me to think about pacing and scene size as I want most of the chapters to be roughly the same size.

Macro-story tweaks

Most of the changes I made from my first draft to my second were focused on improving the macro storyline.

Things like:

  • what is the overarching question and answer
  • Is there a crisis point in the book where the character must make a difficult decision
  • Are there major inconsistencies in the world

Luckily, reading back through the second draft, I felt that I had tackled most of these big-picture problems and could move on with only a few tweaks.

So I made these quick changes and then set about another round of deeper analysis on my story focusing on scene structure.

Scene Structure

As I mentioned before, between my first and second draft I did a couple of months worth of analysis on the manuscript going into painstaking detail. I don’t regret it because at this point in my writing journey just doing the analysis work is great practice.

But I think for first drafts going forward I would wait on some of the minutiae until I was further along with my story. A lot of the work I did needs to be redone for this draft because I reorganized so many of my scenes and wrote several brand new ones.

So last week I started a portion of this process again. I went through each scene of my novel and documented the following

Scene Analysis Points

  1. Title and brief synopsis of the scene(for reference)
  2. Polarity and Value Change
  3. Turning Point and Turning Point Type
  4. Inciting Incident
  5. Progressive Complications
  6. Crisis Question
  7. Climax
  8. Resolution

Most of these points of analysis come from Shawn Coyne’s Story Grid. I am not going to explain these points in detail because it’s more than a post in itself, but you can get an introductory version here at the Story Grid website:

Or better yet, read his book:

The goal of this particular analysis is to ensure:

  • That something happens in each scene
  • That what happens moves the character and plot into a new state
  • That each scene is not too similar to the scenes surrounding it
  • That your protagonist is making active decisions.

Having these components in each scene automatically builds in character growth, story progress, and hopefully reader engagement.

After last week’s post on tension and suspense, I am spending a little extra time in this draft trying to add these elements to my scenes so I don’t replicate the mistakes of my short story.

I just started the real work of the third draft getting into the actual rewrites at the end of last week. I am going scene by scene each scene attempting to strengthen the structure.

So far this is going much slower than I hoped, but perhaps this week I will pick up the pace.

World Building

On an entirely different note, last weekend I was lucky enough to get a chance to talk through some ideas on world building with a couple of friends and fellow story enthusiasts.

I am in the process of planning a speculative fiction book series that is set in another world. Because the society is alien and doesn’t share earth’s history, culture, or norms, I have a lot of work to do to make sure it is believable and consistent across several books.

They were generous enough to read through my notes and take some time to talk through the issues I was having. They had some great feedback and really exciting ideas that I can’t wait to explore. So special thanks to Michael Milona and Lauren Weindling!


I’ve been really lucky in reading lately. It doesn’t always happen like this, but the last several books I’ve read have been really excellent.

The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy by Jeanne Birdsall

This is a really sweet middle grade book about four sisters and their summer vacation on the grand Arundel estate. The book is full of their adventures, and cute little details. For instance  their dog, Hound, draws lots by throwing their names and pieces of dog biscuit on the ground to see who gets picked first, and they keep calling to order MOPS (Meeting of Penderwick Sisters) and MOOPS(Meeting of Older Penderwick Sisters). The story is centered around their friendship with the son of the owner of the estate, but each sister has her own story arc. The author has noted that she was influenced by Little Women and the Secret Garden and these really come through.

Assassin’s Apprentice: The Farseer Trilogy Book I By Robin Hobb

This was one of those books I had a hard time putting down. It is classic epic fantasy, with magic and castles, and princes and fools, but the detail of the world and the depth of the characters makes it feel unique. Whereas many Epic Fantasy series have a rollicking and over-the-top feel, Assassin’s Apprentice has an intimate and understated narrative flow that draws you into Fitz’s world. Hobb also does a fantastic job handling the magic system, piecing out hints bit by bit so that you feel you understand without any of the more obvious info dumping scenes.

This might be a strange thing to say, but some books feel like they could easily be movies or TV shows, whereas Assassin’s Apprentice is most certainly a book and one that highlights the strengths of the medium. If you like fantasy, I definitely recommend checking it out.


Mark Dawson’s Self Publishing Formula Podcast

The Self Publishing Formula podcast delivers advice on the business side of being a writer.  Though some topics are geared towards  independently published writers, plenty applies to all writers who want to understand more about marketing.

This podcast features successful independent author, Mark Dawson, and beginner, James Blatch. It is often hard to separate advice intended for authors with a large backlist of books from advice geared at newbies like myself.But this matchup provides not only the experience of the pro, but plenty of clarifying questions and a reframing of strategies  for someone just starting out.

I am working my way through the backlist of podcast episodes now and enjoying the interviews with some of the big names in the indie publishing space like Vellum, BookBub, and FreeBooksy. Some of the best episodes have been the ones where the cohosts walk through a particular area of self-publishing in depth.

Here are some ones I found particularly useful:

SPF-067: Self Publishing – How Much Does it Cost?

SPF-067: Self Publishing – How Much Does it Cost? – with Mark Dawson

SPF-046: What IS a Mailing List and Why Should You Have One?

SPF-046: Masterclass: Building a Mailing List part 1 – With Mark Dawson

SPF-031: Book Cover Creator Stuart Bache Tells How to Create A Bestselling Book Cover

SPF-031: Creating a Bestselling Book Cover – with Stuart Bache


Well, that’s it for this week. Let me know if you have questions, or if there are topics you would like to learn more about. I always love hearing from you.

Thanks for stopping by,



Feature Photo by Sergey Zolkin on Unsplash

2 thoughts on “Two Books, a Podcast, and the Beginnings of a Third Draft

  1. harrysmith4444 says:

    How do you use the spreadsheet of problems when you are working on your second draft? Why are there “still plenty of problems left over”?

    I want to know more about how you go about deciding on chapter breaks and why we need chapters at all.

  2. These are good questions. For this current draft, before I start working on a scene I will read through the notes for that scene in my spreadsheet. I then read the scene over to make sure i still agree with the comments before making any changes.

    The reason there are so many problems left over is that there are so many levels of things to fix after a first draft, that it really hard to address them all in one pass. I’m still trying to work out the best way of handling this, but i’ve been trying to assign certain tasks to each draft. So from first to second draft, even though I might have noted a lot of problems with language, or dialogue, I wasn’t fixing those yet so i could focus on making the overall story make sense first. So the more detailed issues were still left over to be dealt with in the third draft.

    One of the reasons for taking this approach is to avoid the time-consuming line-level work on scenes I’m just going to cut anyway. Another is just focus. I tend to be less effective if I’m trying to solve too many disparate problems at the same time.

    As far as Chapter breaks go, that’s a good topic for another post, but in short they are one of the primary pacing tools a writer has at their disposal.

    Thanks for the questions!

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