I’m so grateful for Sandra Scofield’s book “The Last Draft“. Scofield, a published writer and experienced instructor, has provided a very comprehensive, step by step approach to analyzing a first draft. This is the primary focus of the book, and sets the stage for planning revisions. It’s very organized, very clear, and very useful!
The book is full of suggestions to analyze other novels in order to understand each step. I didn’t do this! However, her suggestions on analyzing one’s own novel are excellent. And they are flexible. She offers a variety of methods for analysis and planning from which I picked and chose.
Here’s my very brief version of the steps. In future posts, I’ll add a lot more detail!
STEP ONE: BIG PICTURE ANALYSIS
- Print your first draft, single sided. Read the whole thing, writing comments on the left side blank pages. Don’t edit. Just read and comment- write questions, things that need to be researched, holes in the story, etc.
- If you already know there are missing scenes, write and add them.
- Highlight back story for later analysis.
- Write a series of short and long novel summaries that will help clarify what your novel is about, what movements or novel parts you have created, what the novel’s purpose and theme area, etc. These summaries need to address all plot lines if there are more than one. These can be used later for query letters, but for now, the goal is to get the story clear for yourself.
STEP TWO: FINE GRAINED ANALYSIS
- Create timelines for your plot(s) to use as a reference
- List and summarize the major scenes of your plot(s)
- Create a more detailed list of all scenes between these major scenes – analyze whether there are missing scenes, unnecessary scenes, whether they are in the right order
- Look at your chapters- with scene additions and changes and a better sense of your story, you should be ready to reorganize chapters.
- Create a storyboard using spreadsheets or color coded index cards that places all your scenes where you think they should go. Identify chapters.
STEP THREE: REVISE
I’ve started revising. I have written new scenes, created a solid timeline for both my plots, and established a reasonable story board (a table) for both of my plot lines. I’m procrastinating a bit, probably out of fear. But it’s time to take the plunge. So my next steps are to:
- answer the questions/comments I wrote in the printed first draft
- electronically revise my manuscript using the new ordering and placement of scenes
- figure out chapter placements and number or title them
- delete material that does not serve the story
- analyze back story again- is it too much? relevant? is the placement appropriate, compelling?
STEP FOUR: PRINT AND START ALL OVER AGAIN!