Course Information

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Prerequisite: 10-Month Novel & Script First Draft course.


A Three Draft Process

The First Draft

Writing a first draft is where you discover the possibilities of your story. You need to let it go and hang out there in the uncertainty exploring new possibilities. “The first draft is the down draft. You need to start somewhere. Start by getting something, anything, down on paper. You just get it down.” Anne Lamott

The Second Draft

This is where you will nail your story down, so that it works from beginning to end and you get the action, character arc and theme all working together. Something that is not possible in the first draft. “The second draft is the up draft – you fix it up. You try to say what you have to say more accurately.” Anne Lamott

The Third Draft

The third draft is where you learn the craft of re-writing and editing. You focus on the writing making sure every scene works, indeed every word is doing its job. “The third draft is the dental draft, where you check every tooth, to see if it is loose or cramped or decayed, or even, God help us, healthy.” Anne Lamott

We write to re-write

“Finishing a first draft doesn’t make you a novelist. Anyone can do the rough draft of a novel and it probably won’t look much worse than the first draft of any good novel you can name.

“The difference between anyone and a serious writer is re-writing, re-writing and more re-writing, some times over a period of years. I can’t emphasise strongly enough how important this is, that writing leads to writing, that failed attempts lead to eventual success, that the solution of writing problems is made up of all the attempts that lead nowhere…

“The trouble is that when you’re just beginning to write, you may believe that words committed to paper are sacred, fixed, immutable. But you’re not dealing with a finished, printed, copyrighted book; only with an idea, a pile of words that change shape many times before they take shape as a book.” Dorothy Bryant

Writing a second draft requires a very different mindset, skill set and process to a first draft. Without a step-by-step process, accountability and constructive feedback along the way, you can easily go off track and waste a huge amount of time.

"I must confess to being a bit skeptical when I was told the Second Draft would improve my story 200%. After all I had just spent a year driving my story forward, putting my hapless main character under intense pressure and finding out, at the end, how my story ended. Boy, that was a revelation. How could the Second Draft improve my story that much? And I am happy to report I was right. The Second Draft Course didn’t improve my story 200%. It actually improved it 1000%! Irrelevancies were discarded, subsidiary characters came to life and revealed formerly hidden depths, events took on an internal logic and my main character, Aaron Stern, deepened and broadened before my astonished eyes. And I saw the same thing happen with everyone else’s stories as well. Thanks from me and Aaron." Gilbert Mane

Pre-Course Work

Before the course begins you will be provided with a series of templates to flesh out and explore your story in more depth and explore your story from all your major characters’ points of view to ensure that the characters are driving your story.

This is a very important part of the process because in the Second Draft, rather than forcing your characters into the structure, you want to have your characters driving the structure of your story.


During the course you will:

Find and clarify the spine of your story. This is where your “story concept” will really pop to a level that is way beyond the scope of your first draft.

Work through the spine and craft your novel or screenplay one step at a time so that your story works logically and dramatically from beginning to end. You will dig much deeper into your story and characters than was possible in your first draft and flesh out in any gaps.

You will produce a work that has a strong dramatic spine. The action, character journey and theme will all working together to create a cohesive structure that will resonate with readers. This is way beyond the scope of a first draft.

Jan Christie wrote, “The Second Draft Course has made me acutely aware of the gaps in my story, things I thought I’d deal with later. Well, later is now and I have to deal with them before I move on.

“The clear methodical spine in the second draft has been instrumental in highlighting, sometimes in an acutely uncomfortable way, what works and what doesn’t. But in the process I’ve discovered new characters, new motivations, depth to both people and situations that wasn’t there before. It’s a challenge, but it’s also lots of fun.”

Don’t let what you perceive as the lack of quality of your First Draft put you off. You don’t have to go back and make your First Draft more complete.

Many people only really start connecting with their story and falling in love with it in the Second Draft.


Course Structure

Part One: Finding the Organic Spine

You will start the process by finding a fresh Seven Turning Point Spine (this is more organic than the Eight Turning Points in the First Draft course). The new turning points ensure that you have the action, character arc and theme all working together.

Even though your story can and will continue to evolve, the Seven Turning Points you come up with in the first session will clarify the story you want to tell and provide a solid spine for your Second Draft.

Part Two: The Nitty-Gritty of Storytelling

Once you have identified your Seven Turning Points, you will systematically work through each of the Turning Points one at a time focusing on and maximizing the drama, emotional depth and character development.

You will start using Sequences, which are very different from the Sequences used in the First Draft Course, to create the dramatic spine of each Story Step. This extra layer of structure enables you to take what you have in your first draft and really flesh it out.

As well as focusing on the structure for each Turning Point, you will also do a series of writing exercises that will develop your connection to your character’s emotion and voice and help bring your writing to life on the page.

In each session you will work on the structure from one Turning Point to the next and do most of the heavy planning in class.

The Second Draft also features Sequence Outlining which allows you to be creative in your writing, character development and story structure without being bogged down in writing every scene. This allows you to really concentrate on the writing at home.


What if I want to write a Different Story?

The vast majority of people continue working on their story from the First Draft Course. However, if you feel it necessary to write another story, you can develop a new story from scratch.

What Our Students Say

"When Roland said at the beginning of the Second Draft that our stories would become at least 200% better I, like my protagonist, was a skeptic. However, after this eight-month journey I can say that he was right and I think he grossly underestimated the percent of improvement for the whole class. Learning to let go of my pre-conceived story ideas each month was difficult. There was always pressure to increase the pressure on the characters to let them become all that they could be. At this point the critical feedback I get at each class is my favourite part Clare Gillis
"There was a class where Roland wanted to work on everyone’s Turning Points and Story Summaries. I don’t want to heap too much praise on Roland, but I loved the class because it showed all the other stories. I understood them clearly and it was exciting. And with Andrew’s input we also learnt to have action, emotion, setup, complication, payoff. I love the structure. I thought it really brought out all the possibilities, drama and the stakes go through the roof. It’s very exciting when you come out the other side with stuff you didn’t think was possible." Fred Talib
"The Second Draft Course instilled in me a kind of writing discipline. It forced my mind to travel from the highest level to the lowest and back up again. I like the thematic logic theory that helps underpin the structure of the story making the parts cohesive. The process helped me clarify the story and work out what’s important and what I need to let go off. I think I have the spine of the story now ready for the Third Draft. Thank you Roland and Andrew." Wallace Lee
"The first pleasant revelation when I began the Second Draft Course was that there was actually a story there. I realised that the first draft helped me to come up with the geography of my story but that the details of the landscape had to be crafted anew. So I began the story from scratch again, scene 1, line 1, word one. It is so much better than my first draft was and now the road is much straighter and easier to negotiate." Kim Williams
The Second Draft has taught me many things. Key – to dig as deep as you possibly can. Don’t be afraid to really let go and explore your fantasy world. As Virginia Woolf said, “Dreams, memories and fantasies are as important as actions and thoughts.” And discipline – it’s taken me this long to develop a healthy writing habit and to know that writing everyday is what develops a sound structure to build on. Kim MCrae Kim Mckrea
"The Second Draft Course is a safe place where ideas can be played with, allowed to fail or soar, without fear. Secondly, it’s a way to stay accountable, to at least produce something to a timetable when life keeps getting in the way. It’s a gift to see my idea excite and inspire others, as much to know when my ideas confuse or bore them." Ben Allard
"Second drafts are enormously easier than the first draft. Second drafts are about the 80/20 tweaks required to get the story structure right. Second drafts are not about setting out on some hopeless, aimless journey with no end in sight and hoping you arrived unscathed with the beginnings of a book under one arm. First draft anxiety level = 7/10. Second draft = 4/10. This time I am confident that a) I am getting somewhere and b) it is better than the time before. I am noticing the quality of the writing improve as the characters emerge and the plot crystallizes." Emma Beames
"This course took the explorations and trail blazing of my first draft and harnessed it into a solid story line. Encouraged and guided by Andrew and Roland, I jettisoned sections without fear, plunged into the unknown, and beat unwieldy sections into submision. I could not have imagined that I would be have written such an exciting second draft. The prospect of a great third draft looms and the only hands I would trust to guide me along that path would be that of The Writers' Studio team. Lucas Welsch
"What I am learning about the second draft? That it's about unwinding what's been included in the first draft. Picking out the forces and pivotal points and situations. Letting go of what went in the first draft and refusing to get attached. Really detailing the world. Not writing about everything, but what you do write about is in detail focusing on the spine of the story." David Moon
Second Draft – Novel & Script - Online

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