The Secret To Writing

Did you know there’s a way to take your writing from draft to beloved classic? Something often skipped when you’re learning all the ‘should’ and ‘should nots’ of the novelist’s world?

There are so many things to remember when you’re writing. All the guidelines you’ve been taught — knowing you can break them all if you make the story compelling enough.

  • Keep a consistent voice
  • Pace your story to keep people reading
  • Don’t switch tenses
  • Make sure dialogue from different characters don’t have the same voice
  • Be sure to engage all the senses
  • Avoid adverbs and passive voice wherever possible
  • Copy edit and make sure it reads well
  • Create characters that are relatable
  • Etc

The list of things a writer is told to remember, techniques and skills they should wield, is almost endless.

And thus, it seems a daunting task. In fact, it IS a daunting task.

For some, it can lead to writer’s block, where one cannot move past a scene because it’s not right, yet. For others, they see their work, compare it to published works, and despair.

The secret that those published writers know? The one that most of your teachers never thought to mention?

You Can Write In Layers

Like an onion, or a parfait, it doesn’t have to be all mingled together and done at once.

I know, I may have mentioned this before. It’s something many of us do naturally, but adding the intent and narrowing your focus during an editing session can be the key to making your manuscript something you’re proud of.

Without the struggle to do all the things at once, you can actually finish your rough draft. And once your rough draft is done, then you can go back and add the layers, the complexities, the intricacies that make a novel sing.

This is exactly why NaNoWriMo works for a decent number of writers. Yes, we tend to be — well, obviously goal oriented — but we’re almost forced to get our story down while only using our writing strengths.

Like a painter to a canvas, starting with large strokes and adding the final details at the end, writers can do the same.

For me? I’ve said before, my writing tends to be focused on the main character — both in their head and how they interact with the world around them.

When I go back to layer things in?

  1. I’m looking to add sensory details to make the world more 3 dimensional
  2. Then, I try to remove some of the main character’s mental observations because I can get pretty wordy.
  3. Next, I’m looking to remove filler words like “just”, “a bit”, “very”, “that”, and adverbs (searching on “-ly”)
  4. Finally, I read it aloud to make sure it flows smoothly and nothing is repeated.

Now, writing in past tense is my default, so I don’t usually have to edit my tenses, and I can’t read my work or a beta’s without copy-editing, so that happens naturally for me. But, if your writing strengths lay elsewhere, feel free to do an editing pass looking for those things.

Often, the more complex the storyline, the most skilled it seems from the outside.


If you write with time hops, or carefully sprinkled clues, or multiple points-of-view? There’s no reason you can’t write one point-of-view at a time. No one has to know the time hops were written in order. And who can prove that those carefully sprinkled clues weren’t added in during post production?

What layers come naturally for you?

What ones do you have to focus on to make sure you get them right?

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