Drafting and revising a novel, the illustrated version

I draft and revise a novel the way I draw a horse (or the way I would draw a horse if I could draw horses). Here is my illustrated process.

watercolour of a woman

I’m a planner, though I’m terrible at planning. As I draft the first terrible draft of my new WIP, I have to keep reminding myself that all a first draft has to do is exist.

I’m not always very convincing, even to myself. But they do say pictures are more convincing than words. (Or was that chocolate?) In any case, I decided to draw some pictures to better convince myself.

My first draft can be ugly. Like this horse.

A very bad line drawing of a horse. I mean, there are legs pointing everywhere.
First draft horse. It’s clearly a horse. It has a head, four legs, and a tail.

I know all the parts a story needs to have, and I know it’s okay to not get them all in the right place the first time. It doesn’t matter if two of the legs are coming out of its back, it has no neck, and the tail is facing the wrong way.

These problems are fixed in my structural edit. More accurately, my structural edits. It usually takes a few passes, but eventually I get all the legs pointing the right way. I even add a few details, like a mane.

A somewhat better line drawing of a horse. Four legs that all point at the ground and everything.
Second draft horse. (Okay, probably fifth.) Look! All the legs go the right way.

Voila! And now it looks like a horse.

But still the sort of horse a five-year-old would draw, not the sort you’d find in an art gallery.

So then I go through one or several more rounds of editing. I make every scene do exactly what it’s supposed to, flesh out the skeletal parts, and make sure my concepts of character, plot, and theme are realised on the page.

By the time I finish this stage, my horse looks more like this.

A peaceful but plain horse drinking.
Third draft horse. With flesh and everything.

It looks good enough to ride. I could send it out into the world and no one would laugh, but a few more tweaks will make it even better, and a pass through paying careful attention to every sentence.

By the time I finish, I (fondly believe I) have this.

A beautiful white horse running in the snow.
Finished horse. Perfection.

And it all started with an ugly horse.

Is this how your drafting and editing process works too, or am I just weird?

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Author: A.S. Akkalon

By day, A.S. Akkalon works in an office where the computers outnumber the suits of armour more than two-to-one. By night, she puts dreams of medieval castles, swords, and dragons onto paper.

4 thoughts on “Drafting and revising a novel, the illustrated version”

    1. Great post. I mostly consider myself a plotter (because I plot before writing, right?), but your process sounds a lot like mine. Especially the part about making a plan and then not following it. 🙂

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