My Drafting Process

There are a few different ways I write scenes. The method here is when inspiration strikes, not when I’m specifically sitting down to craft a scene.


When I’m inspiration writing, I tend to start with straight dialogue. Some people struggle with dialogue, but for me, the character interactions are what make the scene. I have a movie playing in my head of the characters talking, so I just write that down.

If I’m super busy, sometimes I’ll dictate to my notepad on my phone and email it to myself. This means I’ll have snippets of dialogue, often with no quotation marks or indications of who is speaking (though from the voices, it’s usually very clear), let alone setting. The scene building is generally done later, unless I’m writing in order and starting a scene “from scratch.”

Below will be some excerpts from book 2 that I’m working on. Please be advised that they contain major spoilers from book 1, and minor spoilers for book 2.


Keep in mind that these are ALL first draft. I edit and build as I go, but these are all the first draft.

Initial draft:

In passages like this, dialogue is the scaffold upon which I build. As you can see, I give up on quotation marks pretty fast and just spew out the dialogue before I lose it, typos included. Punctuation, what’s that?

first draft2

Second pass:

Punctuation added. Dialogue tags added. Characterization and internal thoughts added. Look how much more shit there is!

first draft3

Third pass:

This is the pass where I’m like, “Oh shit, right. They were supposed to be doing something here.” Dialogue is fine and dandy, but the characters are in a scene and they are doing things.

In this scene, Nikolai is attempting to mind control someone. I take a moment to quickly remind the reader where they are and what they are doing. Otherwise, I just have talking heads and when the scene ends with an action the reader will be left confused. This is me waving a flag going “They’re still doing that thing! Remember that thing?!”

third pass

Notice how I tried to tie the action into the dialogue so that it was seamless. If you insert stuff at the wrong place, it can throw off the dialogue. You want to make sure you’re using natural “breaks” in the rhythm and flow between characters.

The last line takes place right after Nikolai is comparing himself to Thomas, implying that it was this train of thought that broke his concentration, allowing the Irishman to see them. It not only moves the plot forward, but it says something about Nikolai’s character. If you can, you always want to try to have your scenes be doing multiple things at once.

Copyright © 2019 Val Neil. All rights reserved.

1 thought on “My Drafting Process

  1. It is insightful to see how other authors build their scenes.
    For me, I find building the scene, is easier, like watching an old-style B&W movie (think Harold Lloyd or Charlie Chaplin), describing location, placement and details then filling in the dialogue afterwards.
    Of course, the biggest thing I worry about here is having the characters sounding differently, that their mannerisms come through in the way they say things.


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