Working in passes is the controlled process of advancing your work one step (‘pass‘) at a time towards your vision. Every pass must be short, simple, and focus on improving just a few important aspects of the work.

To get a sense of what working in passes looks like, imagine seeing a cathedral from a great distance. You notice its general shape, size, height, but not much more.

Now imagine yourself walking towards the cathedral. Gradually, the features of the building become more and more defined; you begin to make out individual forms, spires, maybe some colors too. Then windows, doors, some of the more prominent ornaments. Now almost at the feet of the cathedral, you can appreciate the hundreds of fine decoration elements. Get even closer, and you detect textures and minor defects in the material itself.

An artist working in passes goes through a very similar experience as he creates his own ‘cathedral’.

Small, simple improvements
Small, simple improvements



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  1. Doron,

    Thanks for all the information you provide. Based on what I have learned from your posts, I have written the first draft of my novel, something I have never been able to do before. My inner critic has always stopped me. Every word, every description, every pronoun had to be right, but that wasn’t what I got so I would stop out of frustration.

    I wrote the draft in about 1-1/2 hours. Then this morning, as I wrote the first chapter, I began thinking that the bit I was writing was not essential to the story. I then remembered your post, Working in Passes. This is my first pass after the draft so it is okay that I have this non essential stuff in there. Besides, it helps me, at this point, to get my character from A to B.

    So again, thanks so much!


    1. Hi Wendy,

      Thank you so much for writing this! You used it exactly right, and I’m so glad it worked for you.
      Also, did I understand correctly that you wrote a quick draft of the entire book in 1.5 hours? If you did that, then I truly am impressed. I have no doubt that you’re going to finish this book, and that it’s going to be good (and yes, I feel comfortable saying this based on your process alone). My experience is that if an artist can capture a complete first pass in one successive flow (rough and abbreviated and wrong as it may be), that’s the acid test. Expanding it and solving the various issue becomes an interesting puzzle that just needs to be slowly worked out.
      Good luck – and please keep me (us) posted!

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