Skip to main content

Novel Shortcuts

Ten Techniques That Ensure a Great First Draft
  • Author:
  • Publish date:
Image placeholder title

Novel Shortcuts: Ten Techniques That Ensure a Great First Draft
by Laura Whitcomb
Writer's Digest Books, 2009
ISBN-13: 978-1-58297-567-2
ISBN-10: 1-58297-567-1
$16.99 paperback, 272 pages

Buy Now!

Read an Excerpt!
Find out how to develop your story around its most pivotal moments in this excerpt from Chapter Three: Crosshairs Moments.

Online Exclusive: Q&A With Novelist Laura Whitcomb

Award-winning novelist Laura Whitcomb shares her insights into the writing life in this exclusive Q&A.

About the Book
The key to successfully starting and finishing that first draft is to get it down on paper on fast. Novel Shortcuts provides you with a unique take on “speed depth in fiction writing,” showing you how to quickly write a first draft that’s also rich and engrossing (it’s really possible!).

Through detailed instruction and valuable exercises, award-winning novelist Laura Whitcomb addresses everything from premise development to foreshadowing to tone and beyond. You’ll uncover shortcut strategies and tools like:

• A four-step approach for crafting stronger scenes
• Plot-planning devices, including plot webs, timelines, and plot menus
• Guidelines for building your story around essential crosshair moments
• Comprehensive checklists featuring quick fixes to common story gaffes relating to plot, character, voice and style, setting, description, and more

Plus, learn how to stay committed to and enthusiastic about your project as you develop it from a new idea to a complex and realistic story. Novel Shortcuts is your roadmap to a smooth and expedient writing process!

About the Author
Laura Whitcomb is the award-winning author of the novels A Certain Slant of Light and The Fetch. Her previous writing book, Your First Novel, was co-authored by literary agent Ann Rittenberg.

Table of Contents

Introduction

Chapter One: Finding the Core of Your Novel

Why This Story?
Clarifying the Premise
Writing Your Jacket Copy as Revelation
A Note About Titles
What to Do If You Can’t Get Focused

Chapter Two: Deciding How to Tell Your Story

POV: Who Should Tell the Story?
Developing the Narrating Voice
Tone
The Device

Chapter Three: Crosshairs Moments
Identifying the Story Crosshairs Moment
Identifying Chapter Crosshairs Moments
Turning All Crosshairs Moments Into Great Moments

Chapter Four: Shortcut to the Scene
Step I: The Scene Outline
Step II: The Dialogue
Step III: The Ten-Minute Heartstorm
Step IV: Putting It Together

Chapter Five: Balancing Scene, Summary, and Reflection
The Scene
Summary
Reflection
Finding Your Rhythm: What Affects Balance

Chapter Six: Planning Your Plot
Plot Web
Timelines
Plot Menu

Chapter Seven: Stealing Tricks from the Best
The Emotional Crack
The Sex Scene
The Awe-Inspiring Entrance
Mixed Perception
Foreshadowing
Chilling Moments
Listening to Your Ghosts

Chapter Eight: Fast Track to the Deeper Emotion
Using Art
Using Music
Additional Inspirations

Chapter Nine: What to Do When It Stinks

Honor the Instinct That Something’s Off
Common Things That Go Wrong With …
Fixing Common Things That Go Wrong With …
Exercise: Why It Works/Why It Doesn’t
Fixing Things Later

Chapter Ten: Goals and Miracles

Establishing a Routine
Self-Imposed Deadline
Writers Support
Inspiration
Finishing the Draft
Blessings to the Happy Few

Phong Nguyen: On Freedom To Invent in Historical Fiction

Phong Nguyen: On Freedom To Invent in Historical Fiction

Award-winning author Phong Nguyen discusses his lifelong dream of writing his new historical fiction novel, Bronze Drum.

Historical Fiction Authors Don’t Expect Their Characters’ Battles To Appear in Modern Headlines, but Here We Are

Historical Fiction Authors Don’t Expect Their Characters’ Battles To Appear in Modern Headlines, but Here We Are

What happens to historical fiction when history repeats itself? Author Addison Armstrong discusses writing about the past and seeing it reflected in the present.

From Script

Art and Independence (From Script)

In this week’s round up brought to us by Script magazine, exclusive interviews with Neil Gaiman’s “The Sandman” television writer Vanessa Benton, Allegoria writer-director Spider One, Hulu’s Prey screenwriter Patrick Aison and director Dan Trachtenberg, and more!

Steven Hartov: On Shocking Truths in Historical Fiction

Steven Hartov: On Shocking Truths in Historical Fiction

New York Times bestselling author Steven Hartov discusses the surprising truths he discovered when writing his new historical fiction novel, The Last of the Seven.

Larry Beinhart: On Rejection Leading to Mystery

Larry Beinhart: On Rejection Leading to Mystery

Award-winning author Larry Beinhart discusses what he learned in the process of writing his new mystery novel, The Deal Goes Down.

writer's digest wd presents

WD Presents: A Competition Announcement, 6 WDU Courses, and More!

This week, we're excited to announce our self-published e-book awards, 6 WDU courses, and more!

Leah Franqui: On Killing Our Critical Inner Voices

Leah Franqui: On Killing Our Critical Inner Voices

Award-winning playwright and author Leah Franqui discusses how she examined her life through a fictive lens with her new novel, After the Hurricane.

Pacing Your Fight Scene (FightWrite™)

Pacing Your Fight Scene (FightWrite™)

Trained fighter and author Carla Hoch discusses how to pace your story's fight scene and shares three examples from writers who tackle pacing differently.

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Rushing the Drafting Process

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Rushing the Drafting Process

The Writer's Digest team has witnessed many writing mistakes over the years, so this series helps identify them for other writers (along with correction strategies). This week's mistake is rushing the drafting process.