Home :: Non-Fiction ebooks :: Writing Advice :: Cohesive Story Building (formerly titled FROM FIRST DRAFT TO FINISHED NOVEL {A Writer's Guide to Cohesive Story Building}) (ebook and print) by Karen Wiesner (Non-Fiction: Writing Advice)

Cohesive Story Building (formerly titled FROM FIRST DRAFT TO FINISHED NOVEL {A Writer's Guide to Cohesive Story Building}) (ebook and print) by Karen Wiesner (Non-Fiction: Writing Advice)

Cohesive Story Building (formerly titled FROM FIRST DRAFT TO FINISHED NOVEL {A Writer's Guide to Cohesive Story Building}) (ebook and print) by Karen Wiesner (Non-Fiction: Writing Advice)
(9 reviews)  

By bestselling Writer's Digest Books author Karen S. Wiesner

Revised, Updated, and Reissued Writing Reference

Second Edition
Without layering, a story is one-dimensional, unbelievable, boring. Layers mean stronger characters, settings, plots, suspense, intrigue, emotions and motivation. Layering also produces cohesion of all elements. Characters must blend naturally with the setting the writer has placed them, just as plot becomes an organic part of character and setting. If a story doesn't work, it could very well be because the elements aren't cohesive. Cohesive Story Building shows how each element hinges on the other two and how to mix them until they fuse irrevocably.

Additionally, Cohesive Story Building carefully explores each of stage of story development from brainstorming and outlining to drafting and revision. From a thorough look at the fundamentals of writing to comprehensive story building techniques, as well as submission guidelines and etiquette, this must-have guide will see writers through the entire novel writing process from start to finish.

Set within the framework of comparing the process of building a house to the process of building a story, Cohesive Story Building gives a solid plan of action from start to finish through in-depth examples and exercises, and leave-no-stone-unturned checklists that will help writers take the plan into their own writing. Features detailed examples from published novels to illustrate story-building principles.

Many who have read Karen Wiesner's reference First Draft in 30 Days, which focuses on in-depth outlining and goal-setting, will find Cohesive Story Building a perfect companion to that book.

Bonus! Worksheets, Checklists, and Exercises

One of the questions I was asked most when the first edition of this book was published by Writer's Digest Books was whether the worksheets, checklists, and exercises were available in a usable format. With this second edition, my new publisher and I are offering a download of all of these that are in a usable format, namely Rich Text Format (RTF) for $1.99, which allows for cross-platform document exchange and which most word processors are able to read or write to. In other words, the file allows you to type right into the document and use it over and over as needed! Additionally, for those who prefer a printed version, a paperback booklet is also available.

ISBN/EAN13: 1922233641 / 9781922233646
Page Count: 274
Trim Size: 8" x 10"

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Ebook Price: $19.99
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Cohesive Story Building (formerly titled FROM FIRST DRAFT TO FINISHED NOVEL {A Writer's Guide to Cohesive Story Building}) (ebook and print) by Karen Wiesner (Non-Fiction: Writing Advice)
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5 Most useful customer reviews (see all reviews):
Karen Wiesner
Jun 9, 2015
"Although this writing manual is a companion book to FIRST DRAFT IN 30 DAYS, one can work with it independently of the earlier book. FROM FIRST DRAFT... begins with a lucid summary of the method in FIRST DRAFT IN 30 DAYS so that a writer can adopt that method and go on to integrate it with the techniques recommended in the new book. Using the metaphor of building a house from a blueprint and a solid foundation, Wiesner lays out a step-by-step plan for developing a polished novel from the "formatted outline" produced by the FIRST DRAFT IN 30 DAYS method. She gives an abundance of examples from published novels so that the reader has no trouble grasping exactly what she means by each of her recommendations. This book introduces two very helpful concepts new to me, "story sparks" and the "punch list." It also includes a large quantity of useful checklists and worksheets. For writers like me, to whom outlining and pre-planning come naturally, FROM FIRST DRAFT TO FINISHED NOVEL will definitely be of great value. Many of its suggestions are bound to benefit "pantsers," too, however. If you already have FIRST DRAFT IN 30 DAYS, be sure to add this "sequel" to your collection. If not, consider buying it anyway; the new book, as I mentioned, can stand on its own." ~author Margaret L. Carter http://www.margaretlcarter.com

“FIRST DRAFT IN 30 DAYS gives a well-detailed, practical system of how to write a novel in a month. It can be personalized to work for anyone. Attempting to write a novel in thirty days is a tremendous undertaking. Award-winning author Karen Wiesner insists that anyone can do this by using her system. In her book, FIRST DRAFT IN 30 DAYS: A Novel Writer’s System for Building a Complete and Cohesive Manuscript, she reveals how she keeps ahead of her writing deadlines and continues to write prolifically. According to her website, she is the author of 68 novels written in 11 years. Her books have been nominated for and/or won 92 awards. She is contracted for several multi-book series and novels with her publishers. She writes in many genres, including mystery, police procedural, romantic suspense, and nonfiction. Ms. Wiesner is a member of many writing organizations. She is also a talented artist and designs many of her own covers. For a writer looking for a method to write a novel quickly, this book is one to consider. It's an essential tool for succeeding at NanoWrimo, National Novel Writing Month. Even if it is not used strictly on a thirty-day schedule, the method, charts, and forms will benefit writers looking for a way to write a novel in an organized manner. For more support on the second half of the process, Karen wrote FROM FIRST DRAFT TO FINISHED NOVEL. This book goes even deeper into her method and shows the writer how to turn the formatted outline into a well-written manuscript.” ~Suzanne Pitner for Suite101.com http://fiction-plots-pacing.suite101.com/article.cfm/how_to_create_a_plot_for_a_novel

“FROM FIRST DRAFT TO FINISHED NOVEL by Karen Wiesner uses an interesting analogy for creating your novel. The idea of looking at your novel as building a house is different than anything I’ve read and a unique approach for the writer who likes a strict format. Ms. Wiesner’s approach is refreshing. Each section is considered one layer of the process with four stages. There are lots of good ideas that can be used by anyone at any time during writing. There are also several appendices containing worksheets, exercises and examples of how to use everything. Overall the book is a very helpful tool for a writer to have on their bookshelf or their e-reader.” ~The Readers Roundtable http://truthbetold.thereadersroundtable.com/?p=70
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Elizabeth King Humphrey for WOW! Women On Writing http://muffin.wow-womenonwriting.com/search/label/finished%20draft
Dec 1, 2014
I was fortunate to get to review Karen Wiesner's COHESIVE STORY BUILDING. In this book on crafting a novel, Wiesner continues to carefully lead you through different layers of the process of writing--and finishing--a novel. Peeling back the layers, Wiesner helps you to set the stage for building a strong and cohesive story. As she does in FIRST DRAFT IN 30 DAYS, she provides real-life examples from drafts and published novels. Wiesner puts together a blueprint to follow that starts with setting forth and laying a strong foundation. She encourages brainstorming and then researching. Along the way, Wiesner gives writers the tools to understand how to write their stories. Her appendices include a glossary that helps to explain some of the elements of fiction writing. Wiesner also gives writers the easy-to-follow checklists and exercises to keep on track. After laying the solid foundation, Wiesner spends two parts putting up the walls of your story. She helps to guide writers through evaluating their own stories, which is essential if you are going to make the story work. Then, thinking in layers, Wiesner suggests how to improve on the foundation and walls of your story. In the third part, Wiesner helps guide writers in the revision process--giving ideas on how to involve critique groups or partners--through to the final polishing. Want to sell the novel? Then Wiesner helps you put your proposal together. (I'm not there quite yet!) Wiesner's style is approachable and friendly. Her advice seems to be vested in you developing the best novel you can. Her examples are contemporary and work to help demonstrate the concepts she's exploring. Her precision focus and guidance should easily help you get from your first draft to a completed novel. Her preparations helped me to look at my work more objectively. She's the writers' coach you wished lived next door to you.
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Patricia Fry, President of SPAWN http://www.spawn.org/books/books_write_drafttofinishednovel.htm
Dec 1, 2014
Have you ever wished for a blueprint for your novel--one that would ensure that your story was strong, your characters interesting and your pace perfect? Karen Wiesner, author of over 100 books, which have won a total of 125 awards, has created the book you've been waiting for. I'm telling you this so you'll understand this author's credibility when it comes to novel-writing. And according to her bio, her work has garnered dozens and dozens of awards. It's unusual for a novelist to write a cohesive nonfiction book. Obviously Wiesner is an exception. I found this book to be extremely informative, well laid-out, and easy to follow. She says that writing a story isn't much different from building a house and she provides clear instructions along with many relevant and useful examples. She uses examples from authors such as Dan Brown, Sandra Brown, J.K. Rowlings, Stephen King, Larry McMurtry, and many others. I got a kick out of how she uses the process of building a house throughout her chapters to help writers understand the importance of taking each step in sequence. Works for me! I especially appreciate her checklists. She provides a story-plan checklist, a cohesion checklist, revision checklist, punch checklist, as well as exercises and worksheets to help the reader put into action the valuable information she offers throughout this book. Are you having trouble organizing or expanding on your story idea, your plot, the editing, or your submission package? Are you confused about point-of-view, character development or even how to conduct research for your novel? Take a look at this book. It is very well-designed and jam-packed with excellent information and instruction. In fact, it should be required reading for fiction writers. She likens the process of building a story to that of building a house. First there's the idea, then you have to lay the foundation. Next comes the actual building of the house (or writing of the story) and the decorating (revising). And she offers detailed chapters reflecting this theme throughout. She starts with the Principles of Building a Cohesive Story, goes into brainstorming and researching as well as revising and how to utilize critique partners. I especially like her Story Plan Checklist Exercises. And she uses some familiar books to show you how it's done. Do you like workbook pages and exercises? Then you'll enjoy working your way through this book. Read Wiesner's wise words, follow her instructions and you may complete a more cohesive, entertaining story, and in record time. In her book, Wiesner also teaches you a lot about self-editing--something that all writers and authors should understand. I love her examples, most of them taken from published books. One thing she suggests is that you write effectively enough that the reader has the same reaction as the POV character. She gives this example: "Jacqueline felt a scream rise in her throat, begging for release, but she clamped her lips shut to imprison it." Here's another version of that sentences. "A scream clawed in Jacqueline's throat, begging for release, but her clamped lips imprisoned it." She says that she believes both work well, but in the first version, the word "felt" separates the reader from the character. Can you see and feel the difference? This book is full of this sort of assistance and enlightenment. If you are struggling through the writing of a novel, if your critique group tells you that your characters need depth or your scenes could use more pizzazz, take a look at Wiesner's book. And I am happy to report that she has devised a complete and meaningful subject index. This is a book that you can read from cover to cover, but keep it nearby because you'll want to reference it often throughout the process of writing your novel.
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C. Hope Clark, editor FundsforWriters.com and author The Carolina Slade Mystery Series, www.chopeclark.com
Dec 1, 2014
Finally, a book that isn't just theory when it comes to writing a novel. Karen S. Wiesner takes your first draft and shows you how to mold it into a novel, to include query and synopsis stages. Half the book consists of an abundance of checklists, exercises and worksheets, making this book a hard-core practical, useful tool for the novelist. COHESIVE STORY BUILDING is the best hands-on, common sense guidebook to getting a novel into the world that I've seen in years. No fluff...just how to make it happen.
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C.B. Wentworth http://cbwentworth.wordpress.com/2011/08/22/books-i-cant-write-without/
Dec 1, 2014
Books I Can't Write Without: Like many aspiring writers, my bookshelf is loaded with various books related to the craft of writing. Along with the standard dictionaries, thesauri, and grammar guides, I have books that cover everything from how to write a novel to college textbooks that pick apart short stories. What I can't figure out is why I have so many of them! If I've discovered anything over the last few years, it's that the most valuable writing books are the ones which actually inspire the act of writing. My Favorite "How To" Books: #1 COHESIVE STORY BUILDING by Karen S. Wiesner. When I decided to start writing a novel, it became glaringly obvious that I had no idea what I was doing. Wiesner's book gave me a wonderful place to start in plain, simple language that gave me some hope of actually achieving my goal. She uses a wonderful analogy of how building a house is similar to the process of writing a novel. For example, the first phase of building a house is laying the foundation just as brainstorming is the first step to writing just about anything. As an added bonus, the back of the book is filled with appendices that include checklists, graphic organizers, real world examples, and outline layouts.
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Sample Chapter


Introduction: Principles of Building a Cohesive Story
The Essential Process of Layering
Layering to Gain Cohesion
How to Use This Book
Getting Started

Layer I: Planning for and Laying a Foundation
Stage 1. Brainstorming
Stage 2. Researching
Stage 3. Story Blueprinting
Stage 4. Setting the Story Blueprint Aside

Layer II: Part A: Building on the Foundation
Stage 1. Building a Cohesive Story With a Story Plan Checklist
Stage 2. Evaluating the Blueprint

Layer II: Part B: Strengthening the Foundation
Stage 3. Writing the First Draft
Stage 4. Creating a Punch List

Layer III: Decorating
Stage 1. Revising
Stage 2. Involving Critique Partners
Stage 3. Setting the Final Draft Aside
Stage 4. Final Editing and Polishing

Layer IV: Preparing a Proposal
The Query Letter
The Synopsis
The Partial
Putting the Proposal Together

Epilogue: The Cohesive Story

Appendix A: Glossary of Terms

Appendix B: Story Checklists
Checklist 1: Story Plan Checklist
Checklist 2: Cohesion Checklist
Checklist 3: Punch Checklist
Checklist 4: Revision Checklist
Checklist 5: Editing and Polishing Checklist

Appendix C: Story Plan Checklist Examples
Example 1: Dead Drop by Karen Wiesner
Example 2: I Am Legend by Richard Matheson
Example 3: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling
Example 4: The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs

Appendix D: Story Plan Checklist Exercises

Appendix E: Editing and Polishing Exercises

Appendix F: Sample Submission Elements
Sample 1: The Query Letter
Sample 2: The Synopsis
Sample 3: The Partial


Principles of Building a Story


In his book The House You Build: Making Real-World Choices to Get the Home You Want, architect Duo Dickinson suggests several crucial principles in successful planning and building, such as using standard materials creatively, not hurrying, preparing an on-spec budget, building in phases, and designing something you would want to own for a long period of time.

The process of planning and writing a book shares many of the same principles. When an author builds a story, he doesn't need fancy tools. He just needs to creatively use the tools he has to come up with his own unique design. He writes what he knows and feels. While a story will be written on its own timetable, this doesn't mean the author shouldn't be goal-oriented and disciplined. After all, just as a house that doesn't get built is never lived in, a book that doesn't get written will never be read. Additionally, building a story in phases, adding layer upon layer and making sure that the layers cohere, is the most productive, efficient way to complete a story. Certainly all writers want to offer a book that they're proud to call their own indefinitely.

When Building a House

Even the steps in building a house are similar to those in writing a story. When building a house, the designer (or the one who will be living in the house) comes up with ideas for his dream house, he makes very specific plans to lay the groundwork for the project, and only then will he break ground in order to lay the foundation. Framework is done inside and out, then electrical, plumbing, and ventilation systems can be installed.

The making (and breaking) of a house is based on the solidity of the foundation and framework. I remember when my husband and I were looking at houses in hope of purchasing our dream home. Our realtor showed us a house that had been decorated beautifully--the very best appliances, cabinets, carpeting, even a hot tub. But there was quite obviously something not right about the whole package. There were deep cracks running throughout the walls and ceiling, and the structure seemed to be slanting--not simply because it'd been built on a hill.

The realtor told us that the builder had been inexperienced, and, initially, cheap. When making the foundation, he poured a thin layer of concrete in a slab, the way it would be done for a sidewalk. What he should have done was dig footings below the frost line and then build the house on the solid foundation of those footings. Because he didn't, when the ground under the foundation froze in the winter, the water in the ground naturally froze, as well, and expanded, lifting the house in the places it froze. The frost heave caused violent cracks to form in the walls and ceiling. Other problems occurred, as direct or indirect results of the shoddy foundation, including pipes bursting (because the house lacked a properly heated basement in a climate where winter normally fell to frigid temperatures) and water damage. Additionally, there were major problems with the substandard-quality heating system installed on the main floor.

In order to sell the house, this builder attempted to go back and cover up the problems by filling the house with an irresistible selection of decorations, like expensive furnishings and appliances (that whirlpool bathtub turned my head more than once in the walk-through). Ultimately, for my husband and I, nothing could change the fact that this house wasn't solid enough to live in.

The builder had three options to fix what he'd done. The first wasn't truly a fix since it essentially meant tearing the house down and starting from scratch--this time with a solid plan, quality materials, and a strong foundation.

The builder could have opted to jack up the main house and go back under to build a solid foundation. This option would have eliminated future problems but nevertheless brought a lot of unpredictability. He must have surely realized that the lack of a good foundation was the crux of the house's problems--one that could never be fully corrected unless he went with the first and best option of starting from scratch and doing it right this time. But jacking up the house and making himself a good foundation wouldn't fix the issues the bad foundation had already caused. At this point, the house had become a money and time dump, considering how few people would want to live in something so flawed. I honestly don't know how the house passed inspection.

This builder didn't choose either of the first two options. Instead, he chose an option that shouldn't have even been an option. Out of cheapness (because he'd already poured so much cash into the house, trying to fix and cover up underlying problems), or maybe even sentimental reasons, he felt that the main level of the house was salvageable and he could sell it cheap as is. Hey, let someone else deal with the problems that'll plague this house for years, he may have thought. And then, of course, the guy got lucky and someone bought the sinkhole, which meant this builder probably thought he got away with not doing it right the first time, and he might not have learned his lesson for the next time he put a house up.

A quality builder stresses the importance of laying the groundwork right the first time. Only then can building begin with framework, the installation of drywall, cabinets, and interior trim. Decorating the house is the final step in the process. The layering steps must be done in the right order--and are ideally not done simultaneously--to complete a solid, pleasing home someone would want to live in for the rest of his life.

When Building a Story

When building a story, an author dreams up ideas through a process called brainstorming. When he has sufficient ideas to warrant actual physical work being done, he makes very specific plans to lay the groundwork for the project, and only then will he break ground in order to lay the foundation. Essentially, he creates a blueprint in some form--pre-writing or an outline--and this is the true solid foundation for any story. Only rarely will a job done right turn out wrong.

If a writer opts to skip the solid foundation of pre-writing, he'll probably have trouble all through the project, especially at the end, when he has a massive stack of pages that somehow have to be fixed. An experienced writer may well be able to correct the crux of a story's problems without starting from scratch, but this won't necessarily make the problems caused by the initial, bad foundation go away. Without a doubt, the writer will dump a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into re-working and revising the manuscript, possibly many times.

No amount of decoration will fix a story that's seriously flawed. In Novelist's Essential Guide to Creating Plot, J. Madison Davis calls this kind of fixing "patching" the story. The writer relies on patching rather than a good design. The patch drops out of nowhere into a story and forces things to go where the author wants them to. The outcome is never convincing.

Rejection from agents and editors is inevitable when a story is fundamentally flawed. Luck-makes-a-bad-choice-worth-it scenario: The author sells the work to a publisher. Reviewers will then probably do what they always do--without mercy--and perhaps the author will see the wisdom of starting each future project with a solid foundation. For a published author with a supportive publisher, we can only hope that, if readers don't come back for more, the author doesn't give up, but instead endeavors from that point on to build soundly from the get-go.

It's never productive to plunge into a story and write endless pages that either get discarded or have to be laboriously re-shaped. If you know your story and conflicts before you start writing, you can focus on scenes that work and advance the plot. Knowing your story from start to finish before writing the first draft will allow you to convey the character's emotions more clearly through whatever he faces. Knowing your story gives you the edge to create tense scenes because you'll be aware of what's at stake in the end. Additionally, effective foreshadowing is done best when you know where the story is going from the first word written. You'll know your character so intimately, you'll have no doubt how he'll react to each obstacle you put in his path.

First, make certain you have a story foundation that can support the framework you build onto it afterwards. Don't move forward into writing the first draft until you have that.

Revising a story, like decorating a house, should be the final step in the process. These layering steps should done in the right order--never simultaneously--to complete a solid, pleasing novel that is fully realized and irresistible.


We've established, from comparing the process of building a house to the process of building a story, that there are three distinct layering steps. In building a house, these are:
Stage 1: Planning for and laying a foundation
Stage 2: Building
Stage 3: Decorating

In building a story, there are three distinct layering steps:
Stage 1: Planning for and laying a foundation
Stage 2: Writing
Stage 3: Revising

Each stage in building a house involves a variety of steps, such as picking out a plot to build on, working plans around the unique aspects of that plot, excavation, and a variety of installations. In writing, each of the three layering stages is distinct, and also consists of several steps. The first layer, planning and blueprinting, has four steps:

  1. Brainstorming
  2. Researching
  3. Story blueprinting
  4. Setting the story blueprint aside

Writing, like framework in building a house, is the second layer, and also involves four steps:

  1. Building a cohesive story with a Story Plan Checklist
  2. Evaluating the blueprint
  3. Writing the first draft
  4. Creating a punch list

Finally, the third layer, revising, requires four distinct steps:

  1. Revising
  2. Involving critique partners
  3. Setting the final draft aside
  4. Final editing and polishing

Then we get to Layer IV--which involves preparing your work for submission. This layer isn't about crafting your story, per se, but it's too important to ignore. Think of it as preparing to sell the house you worked so hard to build.

The Merits of Layering

Without layering, a story is one-dimensional, unbelievable, boring. But with proper layering, the characters will become so lifelike, readers may believe they're fully capable of stepping right off the pages into the room. Layering means strength in story-building just as it does in house-building: stronger plots, suspense, intrigue, emotions, motivations, stronger everything. More reason for editors to love you and for readers to come back again and again.

Layering has another component that writers should take into account. Layering a story produces cohesion between all of the story elements.

The word cohesive brings to mind many concepts. You might think of the cohesion of a symbiotic relationship. The symbiont becomes one with its host. Separating the two is difficult (if not impossible) and, in some instances, unwise, as both may lose something vital they can no longer live without. The elements of a story work together in symbiotic cohesion.

Some dictionary definitions that really show the perimeters of the wonderful word cohesive are: "logically connected, consistent; having a natural agreement of part, harmonious; the act or state of uniting and sticking together; the molecular force between particles within a body or substance that acts to unite them; of or pertaining to the molecular force within a body or substance acting to unite its parts."

I particularly like that last part because it so perfectly describes what happens when all the elements of your story fit together. It's as if some elemental force draws each part of a story together and then fuses them until they become one and are unable to be separated.

The amazing part of this process is that it works uniquely for every single writer. In other words, if you gave the same basic idea to writers in every genre, each would come up with something different. In Breathing Life Into Your Characters, Rachel Ballon, says, "There is nobody else in the world exactly like you, and nobody but you can write the story you want to tell." We'll test that in the exercises included in Appendix D.

A builder knows the best supplies to use to produce a sound house, just as plumbers and electricians follow the guidelines and regulations of their professions. And a home decorator would never put together elements that are grossly at odds. His job is to create something that's both pleasing to the eye and perfectly suited to the individuals in the home.

In the same way, the three main story elements of character, plot, and setting must be cohesive and work together in such a way that taking away a single element would be impossible because all of the elements have seamlessly become a part of each other. They complement each other and work together to make the plot impenetrable and airtight.

The best reason I've heard for building cohesion into your story is from Debra Dixon in Goal, Motivation & Conflict (GMC): If characters, conflicts, goals and motivations don't intersect and collide, you're writing separate books in the same manuscript. The process by which a writer builds cohesion is one of layering and building up and bringing together the strengths of all aspects within his story.


The purpose of Cohesive Story Building is to show you the three distinctive layers of a story and how to build utterly solid, cohesive story elements. Cohesion needs to start immediately, even during the brainstorming phase, and it's crucial that it be maintained throughout the preliminary sketching and outlining of your story. Characters must blend in naturally with your setting, just as your plot must be an organic part of your character and setting. If a story doesn't work, it very likely because your story elements aren't cohesive. In this book, I'll show you how each element depends on the other two, and how to mix them until they fuse irrevocably.

This book is broken down into four main chapters, or layers, followed by six appendices.

Layer I focuses on planning for and laying the foundation of a book, and will give you a concise guideline to creating an outline that includes each scene of your book.

Layer II is actually divided into two separate parts: A and B. Part A explores the steps involved in building on the foundation with the development of a Story Plan Checklist, which essentially functions as the cohesive framework of your story. Then you'll evaluate this blueprint you've created to guide the writing of your book. In Part B, we'll discuss writing the first draft using the outline and Story Building Checklist, and, finally, creating a final list of work to be done with the revision.

Layer III covers the final layer of a story--specifically, revising, editing, and polishing.

Layer IV acts as a thorough walk-through of the three steps involved with preparing a proposal (and creating a synopsis based on your Story Plan Checklist).

The six appendices contain all the supplemental materials you'll need to work your way through the story-building process:

  • Appendix A contains a glossary that includes key terms discussed within this book. If you ever get confused about what a term means, just consult the glossary.
  • Appendix B contains crucial checklists to see you through the building phase (such as a Story Plan Checklist template).
  • Appendix C contains Story Plan Checklist examples of several popular novels.
  • Appendix D gives a Story Plan Checklist exercise to help build your cohesion skills.
  • Appendix E gives a number of passages to help you to refine your editing and polishing skills.
  • Appendix F contains submission package examples.

Using First Draft in 30 Days and Cohesive Story Building Together

Many who have read my writing reference on outlining, First Draft in 30 Days, published by Writer's Digest Books (as the first edition of this book originally was) will find Cohesive Story Building a perfect companion to that book. By default, an in-depth system for novel writing like the one in First Draft in 30 Days encourages and supports story consistency and cohesion.

In an ideal situation, a writer goes through the following twelve steps to get a finished book: 

  1. Brainstorming
  2. Researching
  3. Outlining
  4. Completing a Story Plan Checklist
  5. Setting aside the project
  6. Evaluating the outline
  7. Writing the first draft
  8. Setting aside the project
  9. Revising the first draft
  10. Setting aside the project
  11. Editing and polishing
  12. Creating a proposal

Cohesive Story Building will take you through every single one of these steps--without duplication what's already been covered in First Draft in 30 Days.

Layer I of Cohesive Story Building touches on some of the same processes examined in-depth in First Draft in 30 Days. In that book, I talked widely about the essential requirements of brainstorming, pre-writing and, yes, outlining to write a solid story. Why revisit that topic here? Because it's that important and it's an essential part of completing a first draft and a finished novel! An outline has the dual purpose of creating a firm foundation for a story as well as putting the hard work of writing where it belongs--at the beginning a project. If you work out the kinks in the story at the get-go (using whatever form of a guide you prefer to work with), you ensure that the writing and revising are the easy parts. Best of all, what you end up with is utterly solid, requiring only minor editing and polishing to make it publishable.

However, I do want to stress that Cohesive Story Building is not another outline book, like First Draft in 30 Days. This new book focuses on ensuring cohesion between character, setting and plot. The Story Plan Checklist, covered in Layer II, is the means in which you'll do that. Why is this checklist so essential? Because it's vitally important that you see the major points of your story in condensed form in order to gain cohesion of characters, settings and plot in your own work. This checklist connects all the dots and thereby guarantees cohesion. Used together, your outline and Story Plan Checklist will help you write a "final draft quality" first draft that really will be something amazing.

Following the Layer I preliminary sketching and outlining discussion, we'll move on to Layer II and start the story-building process with the Story Plan Checklist, which leads us to where, in many ways, First Draft in 30 Days left off--the writing of the book. Cohesive Story Building goes deeper than the natural cohesion that weaves together a story during outlining, completing the Story Plan Checklist, and writing.

The reason I've placed the elements of cohesion in Layer II of this book, instead of in the planning stage (Layer I), is because in completing a Story Plan Checklist you're really going to see the miracle of wonderfully intersecting character, setting, and plot. The checklist will complete both your outline and your first draft by confirming that you've connected every cohesive dot from start to finish.

If the First Draft in 30 Days method worked for you and you want to enhance your story-building, use both books together. While it's not necessary to actually merge your outline and Story Plan Checklist into the same document, I will give you an example later in this book of how to use the two together to write your first draft.

See the Story Plan Checklist Method in Action

Speaking of the Story Plan Checklist in Layer II, you'll get the chance to see it action when I use a best-selling mystery novel to demonstrate each step in creating a checklist of your very own.

I do want to assure you that the Story Plan Checklist is versatile. I use a mystery novel as the main example in Layer II, but you can use the Story Plan Checklist for every single genre of fiction, no matter how short or long your work is. I've included example checklists in Appendix C for an action/adventure romantic suspense novel, a horror novel, a young adult fantasy novel, and a mainstream literary fiction novel.

Please note that all of the examples in this book contain major spoilers. If you haven't already read the books used and want to, do so before you go over the examples, as the checklist contains the entire plot of each book in consolidated form.

Whether You're Starting a New Project or Working on an Old One...

Though this book assumes you'll be using this method for a brand new project, you might be wondering if you can use the Story Plan Checklist with a book you've written one or more drafts of that needs more work. Yes! Those previous drafts are the basic "outline" you need. The checklist will then help you pinpoint the problem areas and/or a lack of cohesion that plagued previous drafts of your story.

Also, in an attempt to clear up any confusion that may be caused later, I want to point out that the Story Plan Checklists created in this book from bestselling novels are very detailed and long. The reason that is because these examples have to make sense of the stories presented and something much shorter might have confused readers. (Remember: Your Story Plan Checklist probably won't make much sense to anyone but you, at least not until you turn it into a synopsis, and we'll talk about that in Layer IV.) While you might get the impression from these that most checklists of this kind are detailed or long, the fact is that your own (if written in conjunction with your outline) will probably be very short, at maybe five page--ten at the absolute most. Compare that to a 35-50-page outline of a 75,000- to 100,000-word novel. The checklist hits the major points while the outline covers the book scene by scene. Used together, you'll absolutely eliminate the guesswork involved in writing your book.

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