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A Drafty First Draft

A drafty first draft can be frustrating and nerve wracking.

Seriously. Drafting a story can feel like trying to pin down a cloud, or like sky writing on a breezy day. It takes an incredible act of faith to write a book.

While a drafty first draft is totally normal for most writers, whether you are a true “pantser,” someone who loves the creative freedom of fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants writing as the story unfolds, or a plotter who knows exactly where you want the story to start and end, you still need to have some key elements in place, including a clear point, a solid character arc, and a satisfying start-to-finish plot.



No matter your process for developing your first draft, at some point, it’s a good idea to step back and see it as a whole, to ensure it provides an accessible and enjoyable journey for the reader. That’s why I coach writers using tools like the Blueprint for a Book and the Inside Outline. (Both developed by CEO and Founder of Author Accelerator, Jennie Nash.)

The Blueprint for a Book is a foundational plan for the story. It includes elements like the point of the story, a description of your ideal reader, the story’s timeline, and a general outline of the plot. The complete Blueprint also includes the Inside Outline, which can also be used on its own. The Inside Outline takes the plot outline and takes it a step further by asking what the point of each scene is and why it matters to your characters. It’s a great short-hand method for determining if a scene is necessary and driving the narrative, moving the plot, and/or developing your character’s arc.

These tools help solidify the book/story and create a plan the writer can revisit as needed. They hold the key elements all in one place and provide a clear picture of what the author wants/needs the final story to be. They allow the writer to step back from the creative flurry of writing and make key decisions regarding the story. And they can be used both for planning and/or revision.



As planning tools, they are particularly good for ensuring the writer has a plan and knows where the story is headed. Mapping out the story ahead of time can save many hours of wasted writing and avoid a ton of frustration. Knowing your point, the character’s goals, and where the story starts and ends (among other things) allows you to focus on the details of the story.

As revision tools, they offer the opportunity to pull back and see the big picture of the work either at the beginning or “as is” and determine where more focus is needed to strengthen the narrative, or what superfluous things might need to be cut to improve the flow, pacing, arc, etc.



I say it all the time, process is personal. But if a tool or two or even three can save you time and heartache, then why not give them a shot? Try them on for size. You might just be surprised at how well they fit into your process. You won’t know whether or not they’ll work for you, if you don’t take them for a whirl.

And for those who cling to the idea of pantsing it because they like the feel of creative freedom and discovery it offers, having a solid idea of where you are headed and why (the point you are trying to make) doesn’t mean you can’t take a detour along the way. It just means you know where the path is, so you can get back on track after taking that fun side trek.

Also, these tools are not completely proscriptive. The plans you make with them, like your stories, are malleable and flexible. They can be used to decide whether or not to add or delete key elements like characters or subplots without the heavy list of revising the entire manuscript.

They’re like safety nets. Using these types of tools ensures that when you are (sky)writing that drafty first draft and the wind picks up, you have something to fall back on.


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