Second Draft: Your Path to a Powerful, Publishable Story

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You’ve got a beautiful, wild and free first draft. Now what?

Maybe you’ve hit a wall in your second draft and your enthusiasm is fading. You know it takes more than shifting some scenes and checking the spelling to create a finished novel or memoir that hooks agents, sells to publishers and attracts readers. But how do you stride through the next draft with a clear map—and where should you be going?

In this Wednesday, Dec. 16 live class, taught by Allison K Williams, you’ll learn how to revise a first or early draft into a structured, powerful story with engaging characters and a strong hook. You’ll discover a step-by-step work plan to guide yourself through any creative blocks and overwhelm, while leaving plenty of room for inspiration—and set a realistic timeline to finish.

Your second (or next!) draft process will be smoother and stronger, and your book much closer to publication-ready.

This workshop will cover:

  • 3 biggest challenges writers face in the second draft and how to overcome them
  • The difference between story, plot and structure, and how each guides your sequence of events
  • Determining how much world building, backstory, and history should carry over into the next draft—and how to reveal key background information through action in a scene
  • Starting your novel or memoir with an engaging hook in the very first pages (and three ways to see if you need that prologue)
  • What “theme” is and how to bring out the themes of your story as you revise (tip: it’s not the moral of the story!)
  • How all books are mysteries (even memoirs!) and using mystery to create tension in memoir, commercial or genre fiction, and literary fiction.
  • Discovering and polishing your narrative voice (tip: your most natural voice is “like you’d tell the story to a friend, but better”)
  • Allison’s #1 editing technique that will revolutionize your next draft—no matter how much you’ve already revised

Who should take this class

  • Writers who’ve done NaNoWriMo and want a solid foundation for their second draft
  • Novelists unsure of how to write a second draft without losing the creative excitement of the first draft
  • Memoirists in anything from a first to a fifth draft who know their manuscript “isn’t quite done…” but who don’t know what “done” will look like
  • Creative writing students and graduates of MFA programs who want to expand their writing craft with conscious practice
  • “Plotters” who want to build on the structure they have with more freedom and creativity, and “pantsers” who need to anchor and focus their storyline
  • Writers hearing feedback that their book lacks tension, needs a stronger hook, or the story is “hard to follow” or “didn’t grab the reader”

How do I know if this webinar is worth the cost?

This is an important question, and it’s a tough one to answer—especially since so much online education is available free of charge. Furthermore, every student is different, and a valuable webinar for one person can end up being a disappointment to another. For this reason, we offer full refunds if you register, attend the entire class, and fail to get the information you were looking for. Please email us directly to request a refund.

Do I have to attend the live class?

No. Everyone who registers will get access to the recording. However, if you’d like to attend live, keep reading.

How do I attend the live class?

This class uses Zoom webinar technology. You will join through your Internet-connected computer or mobile device. When you register, you will receive information via email on how to join the class. If you don’t receive it within 1 hour of registering, please contact us.

  • When: Wednesday, December 16, 2020
  • Time: 1 p.m.–2:15 p.m. Eastern Time / 10 a.m. Pacific Time
  • Fee: $25

The webinar is broadcasted via the internet with live audio delivered through your computer or mobile device speakers. The visual presentation is displayed directly from the presenter’s computer to your computer screen. The Q&A is managed through a chat-style submission system with questions read and answered by the presenter for the entire class to hear.

Closed captions are provided during the live class. We use Rev’s automated closed caption service, which is about 80%+ accurate. For students joining the class through the Zoom app on a mobile device, you can disable the closed captions by going to your settings and turning off closed captions.

Allison Williams

About the instructor

Allison K Williams has edited and coached writers to publishing deals with Penguin Random House, Knopf, Mantle, Spencer Hill, and St. Martin’s Press as well as hybrid and independent presses. She’s guided essayists and humorists to publication in media including the New Yorker, Time, the Guardian, the New York Times, McSweeney’s, Refinery29, Hippocampus, the Belladonna and TED Talks. As Social Media Editor for Brevity, she inspires thousands of writers with weekly blogs on craft and the writing life.

As a memoirist, essayist, and travel journalist, Allison has written craft, culture and comedy for National Public Radio, CBC-Canada, the New York Times, the Christian Science Monitor, Creative Nonfiction, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Kenyon Review Online, the Prairie Schooner blog, the Drum and Travelers’ Tales and Flash Nonfiction Funny.

Allison holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Western Michigan University and spent 20 years as a circus aerialist and acrobat before writing and editing full-time. She leads the Rebirth Your Book writing retreats series.

Her book, Seven Drafts: Self-Edit Like a Pro From Blank Page to Book will be published by Woodhall Press in March 2021. 

THE CLASS WAS STUPENDOUS. It at once opened doors for me, so much so I started writing my coming-to-America memoir after that.

Victoria Schultz


Allison’s was the very best webinar I’ve ever attended on writing, and I’ve gone to a lot.

J. Rich 


What an energizing, inspiring, informative session today was! Truly so creative and captivating.

Kate Marshall Flaherty


You’ll receive the following

  • Access to the 75-minute interactive class. After 60 minutes, Allison will take questions using in-class chat/text. The class will end after roughly 75 minutes.
  • A recording of the class—audio and video. This is especially helpful if you have a conflict with the class time or something comes up and you can’t make the session. Each registration comes with access to the archived version of the program and the materials for 30 days. You do not have to attend the live event to get a recording of the presentation.
  • Presentation slides. All participants receive a copy of the slide presentation in PDF form.
  • Rough transcript. We use Otter to create an automated transcript of the entire webinar, which we’ll share with you in addition to the audio and video recording.
  • Supplementary worksheets from Allison to help map your manuscript’s story, plot and structure.

Event Attendance & Anti-Harassment Policy

We strive to provide an environment where all present—whether attendee, presenter, or staff—can feel supported. In order to ensure a welcoming event, here is what we expect from all who participate.

  • That the presenter and the presenter’s work be treated with respect by attendees and that all attendees treat each other with respect and a generosity of spirit.
  • That attendees will refrain from harassment of any sort including (but not limited to) comments or questions of a racist, homophobic, sexist/sexual, or threatening nature. This includes actions that disrupt or interfere with anyone’s ability to participate. Offenders will be disconnected from the live event.

System Requirements to Join the Webinar

We will be using Zoom webinar technology.

You’ll need:

  • An internet connection: broadband wired or wireless (3G or 4G/LTE)
  • Speakers: built-in, USB plug-in or wireless Bluetooth

Recommended bandwidth:

  • 600kbps (down) for high-quality video and 1.2 Mbps (down) for HD video
  • If you connect through audio only: 60-80kbps (down)

Supported operating systems:

Supported tablet and mobile devices:

  • Surface PRO 2 running Win 8.1
  • iOS and Android devices
  • Blackberry devices

Supported browsers:

  • Windows: IE 11+,  Edge 12+, Firefox 27+,  Chrome 30+
  • Mac: Safari 7+, Firefox 27+,  Chrome 30+
  • Linux: Firefox 27+,  Chrome 30+

For a detailed listing of system requirements, check Zoom’s site.