Working on a first draft is chaotic, exciting, and bewildering. In other words, just another day at a novelist’s office. A first draft can take me anywhere from three months (Yea for deadlines!) to three years. Once that rough draft is complete and filed away, I often turn to something else to keep me busy. What I like to do best is to look at older work. To begin working a second draft, I pull up the file of the rough draft, print it out, and fill in a storyboard form for each scene. I got my original storyboard form from The Weekend Novelist by Robert J. Ray.


This is not your filmmaker’s storyboard. I do sometimes add pictures for reference value, but more often it’s just dialogue, first and last sentences and the basic action put down in a chart.


Here is the storyboard from the first chapter of one of my works in progress, Veil of Death.

As you can see, I use color to differentiate the characters, the action and even sometimes the timing.  I do one per scene. Some do this using notecards, but I like to have the additional information I can use to track important objects, character movement, or motivation. Once I have these done, I can lay them out on the floor, or the ping-pong table, and rearrange to my heart’s content. Places in the story where I need to do some real work, like a brand new scene, or a total rewrite, get a placeholder page inserted with notes about the problems I found and ideas for how to fix them. I usually use color paper for these as they stand out when I gather them all up and go back to work on the second draft.


This all sounds like a lot of work, but I find it fun and extraordinarily helpful. Doing this work during the second draft allows me to enjoy the breathless adventure of discovery in the first draft. If I know I’ll come back and fix it later, I can trust myself to go on and finish. Second draft then allows me to do all the analytical plot work my inner editor demands of me. Third draft takes me more into the technicalities of the language, spelling, grammar, all of which are challenges for me. Fourth draft is what gets fixed when my beta readers have at it.


Do you have a different process? Would love to hear how it works for other writers!


Happy Writing!