I draft in 4 acts, which is something a lot of us using Save the Cat! outlining methods do. Basically what that means is, I treat Act 2A and Act 2B as completely independent acts rather than trying to write them together.

Apart from this, I have a new drafting strategy I’ve used during my last 2 books that’s working really well for me, and I’ve shared it with a few friends who have also loved it, so I thought I’d share! I started working this way because it’s faster and leads to fewer revisions, but now I’m going to continue just because I love it so much.

My concept is: Make sure each piece works before moving on to the next. Make sure the foundation is solid before building on top of it.

Here’s what I’ve been doing:

  1. Write a pitch, proposal, synopsis, full beat sheet, and the first 50 pages. Get all these materials into a third draft. This takes at least a month for me, but I’ve seen friends do it in a week. (We hate them.)

  2. Write Act 1. Revise. Get feedback from CPs. Revise.

  3. Write Act 2A (including midpoint). Revise. Get feedback from same CPs. Revise.

  4. Revise the entire draft as a whole (I now have half a book) for continuity, making sure the tone of all scenes is right given what happened in the scenes before, etc. Address characterization, setting, get rid of scenes that don’t serve the plot, drop in clues and foreshadowing, etc.

  5. Get a beta read for the whole first half from a cold reader, someone who’s not read any of it yet. Revise.

  6. Stop. Set the draft aside. Revise my synopsis and beat sheet to reflect the changes I’ve made during drafting.

  7. Ask CPs what expectations they have for the second half now that they’ve read the first half. Anything they’re hoping to see, anything they’re afraid of? Try to get a feel for reader expectations based on what I’ve set up. Basically I’m making sure I have a handle on the promise of the premise I’ve created. What loaded guns have I introduced? What promises have I made the reader?

  8. Using these notes and my original beat sheet and synopsis, make a new beat sheet for Act 2B.

  9. Draft Act 2B through the Dark Night of the Soul beat.

  10. Send to original CPs, the ones who have been reading chunks throughout. Revise based on their feedback.

  11. Reconsider Act 3 from scratch. Outline. Make sure I’m satisfying all reader expectations and all promises, loaded guns, etc.

  12. Draft Act 3 and denouement. Revise entire second half.

  13. Revise entire draft from beginning for continuity, character arc, tone, etc.

  14. Send entire half to the same beta reader who read the whole first half. (I have not had time for this step when writing on proposal, but I think it is a best practice). Revise.

I love how it’s like “Write a novel in seven thousand easy steps” but I mean, there’s no quick and easy way to do this and this is just the most efficient way I’ve found so far. Let me know if you have a better way!

Here is a link to the beat sheet I use. It contains helpful resources and a concise description and placement of each beat from Save the Cat! Feel free to steal it and pass it along. I didn’t make any of this up; I just compiled all these different things I was using into one place.

Happy writing!