Your Next Draft

Your Next Draft

Your Next Draft is the fiction writer's guide to developmental editing. What do you do after your first draft? How do you flesh out flat characters, fill in plot holes, and hook your readers from the first page to the last? What does editing a novel even mean? Developmental editor and book coach Alice Sudlow answers all these questions and more. Each week, she shares the editing strategies she's using with her one-on-one clients so you can put them to use in your own novel. Tune in for tips, tools, and step-by-step guides for the novel editing process.


June 18, 2024 30 mins

Your reader experiences your story one scene at a time. Make every scene un-put-down-able.

Great stories are made of great scenes.

Sure, your novel has a clever plot with twists and turns from the first page to the last. But the way your readers will experience that plot is . . .

. . . one scene at a time.

Which means if you want your readers to fall in love with your novel, you need to captivate...

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Show and tell your readers why time matters to your characters.

Time matters.

When you look up and it’s dark outside, time matters to you.

When your characters look around and summer is turning into fall, time matters to them.

When your readers are reading a novel and they can’t figure out how time is passing? Well, time matters to them, too—mostly because they’re confused.

In this episo...

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Don’t lose your readers. Just tell them what time it is.

The passage of time seems intuitive. It just happens, right? (Like, whether you want it to or not. Time and tide wait for no man, etc.)

Here’s the thing, though. If you don’t tell your readers that time is passing in your novel . . .

. . . they won’t know.

It seems wild, I know. It feels like time passing should be obvious. But I promise yo...

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This is often overlooked, but it’s essential for great stories.

How do you make time pass?

Well, when you’re living your regular life in the real world, you don’t have to do anything.

Time is constantly passing, no matter what you do. And when a timer goes off, or you look outside and see the sun’s gone down, or you feel your stomach growl with hunger, you notice time has passed.

You hardly have ...

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Write your best stories—and know when to let go and publish them.

In order to write great books, you first have to learn how to write great books.

But when it comes to writing, there’s always something more to learn.

So how do you know when to practice your writing skills—and more importantly, when to publish the stories you’re creating?

That’s what I’m talking about in this episode.

In ...

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Before you can master writing great stories, you have to learn to craft great stories.

When I was fifteen, I got my learner’s permit and began learning how to drive a car.

This made me very unhappy.

See, I wanted to know how to drive a car. I didn’t want to learn to drive a car.

Knowing how to drive a car was fun, freeing, and exciting. Learning to drive a car was dangerous, tedious, dangerous, ...

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Because working with an editor should be delightful, not scary.

Let's be honest. When you start working with an editor for the first time, it can feel a little scary.

You’re sharing your manuscript, the project you’ve worked so hard on, with a stranger on the internet. You’re inviting another person into a process that up until now has been entirely solo.

And you’re entering an industry of profession...

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What you need to know BEFORE you start working with an editor—and how to tell if they’re the right fit for your novel.

Working with a developmental editor can be the most rewarding part of your editing process.

But if you’ve never worked with an editor before, it can also be . . . intimidating. Confusing. Scary.

After all, you’ve got to hand your manuscript that you’ve worked so hard on to a stranger on t...

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What we get wrong about creativity—and the truth that will make your writing and editing so much more effective.

Do you know how great stories work?

Scratch that. Let’s start with an easier question. Do you know how your stories work?

Not all writers do. Even published authors often struggle to articulate how they created the books their readers love. They rely on intuition, following gut feelings to shap...

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Why group coaching might be the perfect way to get feedback on your writing.

When I was first getting started, I pictured editing like this:

A writer writes a manuscript and sends it to their editor. The editor writes feedback and sends it back. The writer takes that feedback and uses it to edit their manuscript.

That’s the classic form of editing. But it’s far from the only form of editing.


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The simple editing process to turn your messy first draft into a second draft you love.

“I’ve written first drafts before, but I’ve never edited a second draft. How do you actually do it?”

A writer asked me this a few days ago. And they’re not alone—it’s a question I hear a lot.

How do you actually edit a novel? Is there a process? A system? A strategy? Something, anything, to guide you after you finish t...

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It sounds scary, but it’s actually MAJOR editing progress.

What if the best way to make progress on your novel . . .

. . . is to go back to the beginning?

Sometimes, the most effective editing strategy is a page one rewrite.

Yes, that means exactly what it sounds like. You open a blank document and begin writing an entirely fresh manuscript.

It might feel like you’re moving backwards. Bu...

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Editing progress doesn’t always look like you’d expect. Here’s how to recognize it.

If your editing is going great, you’ll enjoy this episode. Honestly, though, if editing feels like the worst thing in the world right now, you’ll love this episode even more.

Here’s what’s in store: How do you know whether you’re really making progress editing your novel?

In the episode, you’ll learn:

  • Why editing progre...
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Here’s what happens when you absolutely NAIL IT in your story.

Sometimes, you just nail it.

The ideas click. The words flow. The revision works.

Those days are my favorite days to give my clients feedback. When the pieces finally fall into place and the story is transformed for the better.

On those days, I get to share my most joyful editing feedback.

And in this episode, I’m sharing tha...

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Your editing process has more in common with building a business than you might think.

Editing a novel and building a business . . . well, they’re actually not all that different.

That’s something I’ve been thinking about all year. As I’ve coached writers through the editing process, I’ve been struck again and again by how similar novel editing and business building really are.

After all, they’re both lar...

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The year’s most popular editing tip, plus four more strategies I don’t want you to miss.

What’s the best editing tip you’ve learned this year?

If you’ve been listening to Your Next Draft all year, there are quite a few to pick from—fifty, in fact.

So in this episode, I’m taking a look back at this year on Your Next Draft. I’ve selected the top five editing tips from 2023, tips you can put to use in your w...

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What dozens of manuscripts and dozens of writers all have in common.

This weekend, I celebrated the one year anniversary of launching my editing business.

And since the one year mark is a pretty major milestone, and we’re nearing the end of 2023, I’ve been looking back.

I’ve edited dozens of novels and coached dozens of writers this year. And while the stories vary widely, there’s one theme I’ve encounter...

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Four questions to make every scene of your novel un-put-down-able.

Some of your scenes are really exciting. They’re the big ones, the reasons why your readers picked up your book: the first kiss, the epic battle, the discovery of the body.

And some of your scenes . . . well, they’re the stuff that happens in between the exciting scenes.

In those scenes, the story slows down. Sometimes it slows down a lot....

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Make your readers care about your story by getting specific about what your protagonist wants—and why.

What does your protagonist want?

I bet you have an answer for that question. I also bet that your answer is a little . . . generic.

See, the thing your protagonist wants is good. They might want to save a victim from a villain, or fall in love, or get a promotion, or solve a mystery. We all agree those a...

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The 7 layers of analysis I use to edit a fourth draft of a novel.

I don’t know about you, but right now, my schedule is full. My days are packed with editing. I have several manuscripts I’m absolutely loving on my desk right now, so many pages to read, and so many notes to share with writers.

With all this editing, I didn’t have time to put together a typical episode of Your Next Draft for you. So . . . I’m doing ...

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