The Power of the Bullet (Point) – How to Fast Draft a Scene or Chapter

Not all scenes or chapters come to us fully formed, with witty dialogue, striking metaphors, beautiful prose, and perfect structure. Wouldn’t that be nice?

For me, more often than not, scenes come to me in chunky, choppy bits and pieces. A dialogue exchange here, a nice description there, a sentence or two about how the character is feeling, or maybe even just the flow of how I imagine the scene taking place.

For instance:

  • Jenny gets in the car
  • Reese just sits there, staring out the wind shield, not saying anything.
  • Jenny wants to talk to him but doesn’t know what to say.
  • They both sit in silence.
  • Reese finally talks about something else (the weather? The road conditions?)
  • Jenny knows something is going on but is it really her job to bring it up?
  • Reese: Do you want to stop for food.
  • The thought of food makes Jenny want to vomit.
  • Jenny: I’m not hungry.

And that, my friends, is exactly how I’ll write it. Yes, I’m a big fan of the bullet point. I use it to quickly get down my thoughts and the structure of the scene or bits of inspiration before they fly away and are gone forever.

Like, have you ever started writing a scene and suddenly had a brilliant idea of what will happen at the END of it? Except you’re still pages away from actually writing the end? BULLETS!

Or have you ever come to the end of your designated writing time and are still full of ideas for the next chapter but don’t have time to write the whole thing? BULLETS!

Or maybe you know what the current scene has to be in order to move the plot forward, but you’re so much more inspired to write the NEXT scene. BULLETS! AND MOVE ON! Come back to it later.

The bullet point is the ultimate place holder. And thanks to its “note-like” format, the bullet point keeps your mind in “overview” mode, so it doesn’t feel like it has to flesh anything out just yet, it only has to get the ideas down. Usually by the end of my first draft, I have at least five scenes that are still in “bullet point” form. But then in my first revision, when I have a better perspective on the entire plot, I can easily go back and fill out those scenes, grateful to Past Jessica for leaving me such detailed notes!

So give it a try. Embrace the power of the bullet point!


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  Comments: 2

  1. Great tip! I use bullet points in my beat sheets and try to write out the scenes that way. After I finish, I put every scene on a whiteboard so I will be able to visualise my story as a whole. It gives me a whole new perspective that I didn’t have when I was a pantser.

    • Fantastic idea. I love how you translated the beat sheets into a whiteboard system! Thanks for telling me about this idea and good luck with your writing!

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