Writing a Novel in Layers

For me, layer one is dialogue/characters.  My first draft is almost entirely just a series of conversations.  This helps me get to know my characters, what they want, what they believe, how they feel about each other and the world.

After that, I’ll need to go through and make sure that the plot works, that all events naturally flow into one another and are connected the right way.  I’ll have some beta-readers take a look and they’ll point out big plot holes, inconsistencies, gaps in action, times when what my characters do seems highly unlikely.  I’ll re-write again and get the series of events in order.

Next, I need to work on the setting.  I am very negligent in the description department, so I have to take a pass at the novel focusing entirely on this area.  With my last book, I wrote “SEE TASTE HEAR TOUCH SMELL” at the top of a page and went through the story scene by scene, writing down what I would “SEE TASTE HEAR TOUCH SMELL” in each one.  Then I went back through the novel and grafted those descriptions in– seamlessly, I hope!

Finally, language.  I take a fine-tooth comb and crawl through the manuscript looking for opportunities to use better words (note: better— that doesn’t mean longer, stranger, fancier) and images.

layers math

Other writers do it differently– and that’s perfectly fine.  In order to not overwhelm myself, I essentially need to focus on one specific item at each “pass.”  That said, if I do find other things to change, I change them as I go.  So, really, more is happening than just the one concentration, but that one thing is at the forefront of my mind.

I’d love to hear from other writers!  What’s your crafting process look like?  Do you focus on one area at a time or do you revise in another way?