Sheila O'Kelly's Blog

Freelance journalist, sub-editor, and e-novelist

Phase by phase

with 2 comments

I just came across a writing technique that is new to me on Twitter, ‘Phase writing’. This involves writing numbered paragraphs that outline short phases in your novel. It’s kind of a short first draft and its purpose is to sort out the structure and plot.

Each numbered ‘phase’ is about 20-50 words long and will translate into 300-450 words. The idea is not to worry about your writing style too much, but to use the technique to work out the plot and structure.

I am currently working on a crime novel and have written just over 10,000 words. Already I have had to redraft a number of times when it has got confusing – even with Scrivener. Today I ‘phased’ what I have written so far and found that it has made things much clearer.

Because I was ‘phasing’ material I had already written, I came up with about twice as many phases as I would have done if I were starting from scratch. But since I tend to write too tightly, this has already shown  that I could considerably expand the existing material.

I think this can be an extremely useful technique. And for the next while, I plan to ‘phase’ the entire rest of the novel and then go back and write a full second draft.

This technique was brought to my attention by Johanna Harness on Twitter (@JohannaHarness) and the technique is oulined by Lazette Gilford in her article ‘It’s just a phase’ (

I’ll let you know how it goes.


Written by SOKNH

September 6, 2009 at 19:35

2 Responses

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  1. Hi Sheila

    Yes, I read that post too and though I’d never heard it called ‘phasing’ before, I was surprised to find that it’s a technique I sometimes already use when I’m writing. I’m not sure I’d use it to plan out an entire novel, but it’s certainly been useful to ‘phase’ the chapter I’m working on, or even the next two or three chapters.


    • Hi Iain
      Thanks for your comment.
      It’s always fascinating to hear how other writers work.


      September 10, 2009 at 17:22

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