Story Layers: Finding Your Guacamole


7 Layer Dip
Photo by erin.kkr (click pic for link)
Many of you brave souls are deep in the trenches of NaNoWriMo crafting that fast draft at break neck speed, hoping to reach the finish line. But after the calendar clicks over to December 1, what's next? Revising sure, but what kind of revising?
You're going to need more than grammar fixes and word cutting. What most of you will have is a skeleton of a story with characters and conflict holding it together--a solid base on which you can create something great. But you're going to have to add some meat (and guacamole), layers--like the dip above--otherwise, you'll just have a big pile of bland beans.
Layering Your Novel after the First Draft
1. Put movement into each scene to give bodies to the talking heads.
--People don't usually just stay there and talk and sigh, they do things.
2. Insert the senses into a scene.
--We often rely too much on vision in that first draft. We experience things in the world through all five senses, make sure your character does too.
3. Pump up your setting descriptions.
--This is always a trouble area for me. When I'm writing that first draft, I don't want to waste time describing how a house looks, but it's necessary (in moderation) to ground your reader and enrich the scene.
4. Inject emotion into scenes
--Many times we get so wrapped up in A happens then B then C that we forget to put in those internal reaction and emotions. Ever read a love scene that read like an instruction manual? Ugh. Without emotion the scene will fall flat.
5. Beef up your dialogue
--Find places where you just got the words out and layer in some character voice. And make sure your dialogue reads realistic.
6. Sneak in backstory
--In first drafts, I tend to info dump backstory. Go back, chop up the chunks and sprinkle it throughout. (like the olives in the dip)
7. Foreshadowing
--Sometimes when your start, you don't have the end in mind. Once you're done with draft one, you know the secret. Now you can go back and tuck little hints to foreshadow.
8. Tighten tension
--Tension is an art of pacing. In the first run through, a scene that was intended to be tense may fall short because it was rushed. Go back, slow it down, stretch the tension until taut.
9. Add humor (if appropriate)
--There are usually moments you passed up that were great opportunities to elicit a smile from your reader or strengthen your character's voice with a little humor/sarcasm.
10. Weave in subplots.
--Now that you have the main plot hammered out, enhance your story with a subplot here and there.
11. Break out the thesaurus
--I usually can't think of the exact write word the first time around--especially with verbs. So I use my favorite goto words and some adverbs. Then, during revisions, I find/search those words and replace them with something that is stronger and more fitting.
--Words I use ad nauseum in a first draft: walked, looked, stood, smiled, pulled, pushed, just, back, eyebrows, hand/s, sighed, sat
--If you're not sure what your addiction words are, go to Wordle and paste in your manuscript, your drugs of choice will be the biggest words. Here's my revised novel's Wordle:
As you can see I still have some work to do with a few words, but you should have seen it before, "just" was like a billboard, lol.
So what ingredients does your first draft usually need most? Do you typically finish the first draft and then do these layers? Or, do you do it smaller chunks--going back after finishing a chapter and pumping it up? What other things do you do to elevate that humble rough draft?

**Today's Theme Song**
"Elevation"-- U2
(player in sidebar, take a listen to do it old school)