How to Finish That First Draft

I thought it an appropriate post for today because that is where I’m at right now with a project that, until a month ago, was entirely unplanned. Yes, yes, details to follow on the wings of a book update. But not today. Because I want to finish the first draft first. And I’m writing this post to encourage you with your first draft, and also to give myself a kick to finish mine. ūüôā¬† I know, I’m horrible.

But seriously. First. Drafts. Are. Torture.

Why? Because

1. You probably don’t know¬†exactly¬†how it’s going to end.

Figuring out an ending, at least for me, is almost impossible. It’s got to be just right. It has to be good. And that’s the tricky part.

2. You get halfway or so through the story and you realize .¬†.¬†. it’s RUBBISH!

writing doubt quote

We¬†all¬†get to this point, especially with the first draft. But fear not, there’s some potential there somewhere. And remember, there’s a ninety-percent chance it’s not as bad as you think. We writers can’t judge our own work. So don’t you dare throw it in the shredder until you let someone objectively read it. (Hear that, me??)¬†Or maybe a couple someones, to be safe.


Now let’s move on. That’s why the first draft is so hard, if you were not already aware. But there are certainly a few tricks in the book for finishing that first draft. In no specific order, some of these I’ve implemented, others I ought to. ūüôā


This one, of course, applies mostly to those of us who are¬†at¬†the end of our draft – and if you are, then you’re probably also at the end of your supply of coffee or tea or pretzels or apple cider or whatever else you use to keep your sanity during the writing process. I heartily recommend you treat yourself when all this nonsense is over.

Okay, yeah, I’m getting sidetracked. So, take out the good ol’ fashioned notebook and write out all the ideas you have for an ending. Then pick one. And if you can’t pick .¬†.¬†.


That title was quite self-explanatory. But you get the idea. Whatever you do, just plunge through. (See what that was, there?) Don’t stop to fuss over that lame adjective or that weak verb or that two-dimensional¬†character arc. You’ll worry about that in the editing process.


Take a couple days to breathe if you think that will help. It might give you a push to keep going, but don’t let a breather ruin your momentum.


Never take a plot outline for granted unless you’re not a planner when it comes to the writing process. A detailed outline, while it is bound to change and should be expected and allowed to change, can be invaluable as you put together your masterpiece. I could not write two chapters without an outline. However, note that a first draft is the one in which the plot and the characters will not bend to your will. That’s the second draft.


Whatever you do to push through the many treacherous adventures of the first draft, don’t stop writing. Do not take your word for it when your mind laments over the absurdity of every word you’ve just written. You know why that happens? I have a theory. Maybe it’s¬†because your heart would give a more favorable opinion than your mind regarding your book, but your heart has been shredded, scorched, and put back together with your characters, and therefore, by the end of the book, it refuses to keep up your optimism.

And now, let’s chat! What is your advice for conquering the giants in the first draft? Resupply your survival food and we’ll chat in the comments.


How to Write on Crazy Deadlines (it’s not as hard as it might seem)

There’s something in all of us, I think, that resents a deadline. We steer clear wherever we can, or do something really smart like finish¬†wwaayy¬†before the actual deadline. But as writers, we are doomed to face a lot of deadlines. And there are a few tricks to mastering them so they’re not quite so daunting.


I recently took part in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and this was one of the most valuable lessons I learned. In order to write on a deadline, especially one as crazy as 50,000 words in 30 days, you must pace yourself according to the time-word count ratio. Once you enter a place where you are regularly writing a substantial amount on a daily basis, you can actually find yourself in the “zone” of writing more often than not. This was also the case for me in NaNo. The more I wrote, the more I experienced the steady flow of inspiration.


This one is not quite so obvious as the former but can actually help on a lengthy deadline as well as a tighter one. Not only can it help in entering the flow of writing, but it can take off some of the pressure and allow you a day off.


. . . because that can cause serious stress. ūüôā Bear in mind any deadlines you may have in other areas before taking one or more on in writing.


This can be crucial, depending on the project. In something such as NaNoWriMo, your words per day are cataloged for you, and this is essential in knowing how much to push yourself and how much to pace yourself.

Are there any I’ve missed? What are your techniques for writing to a deadline? Share them in the comments so we can help new writers explore all the possibilities of writing armed with foreknowledge!

Is Your Story Made of Starlight Dust? (The long-awaited part 2)

Was it really a long-awaited part 2? I don’t know. You tell me. I know it was long-awaited for me because it has pretty much taken me since part 1 to discover the answer to the unanswered question I raised in that post – what is starlight dust and how does it fly from your imagination and into your story?

If you don’t remember or did not read that post, I encourage you to check it out. There were some wonderful responses!

Is your story one of starlight dust?

So. The question I asked as I puzzled over it in my own mind was, “Why do I write some stories and they just completely flow? There’s little effort to really get it out, and it comes out solid and¬†good.¬†Why do I write other stories and, after great effort and writer’s block, it comes forth choppy, jagged, empty?”

My critique partner and I settled on our own term for this mystery – starlight dust – and I proceeded to observe in my own work when I saw that “dust” and when I didn’t. It’s been eons .¬†.¬†. but I believe I’ve discovered what starlight dust in the written word means to me.

There is not one strict answer. Show of hands, how many of you have seen the epically awesome, squeal-worthy, downright incredible¬†The Man Who Invented Christmas? It’s in theaters now, if you haven’t even heard of it – inconceivable! – and you must watch the trailer.¬†Anyway,¬†enough fangirling – never enough! – let me get to the point.

Spoiler Free: In the above-mentioned movie, we witness the process Charles Dickens¬†went through to write the second-greatest Christmas story of all time,¬†A Christmas Carol.¬†The first-greatest is Jesus’. But I think we’re safe to presume¬†A Christmas Carol¬†ranks second. Okay, so, in this new movie, providing the following bits of the film are true to Dickens’ life, we see an enormous portion of that author’s life, past, and convictions being poured into the book he worked so hard to produce.

And thus, we see starlight dust. Because of what Dickens put of himself into the story – without trying to – it came to life. Again, providing those tidbits of the film are true, as I have done no research on the topic, because¬†A Christmas Carol¬†came straight from Dickens’ heart, it was showered in starlight dust.

So, our past, present,¬†and personal convictions can drastically affect whatever it is we’re writing. They can give the story that special glow I now label starlight dust.

What else? Having observed my own writing, I believe there’s another source. And it’s just a plain and painful fact:¬†Some stories we can put our hearts into, and some we cannot. It is the blessing-in-disguise of writing. But when you can pour passion, like your convictions, into whatever it is you’re writing, it can illuminate the words so they become totally¬†yours.

Of course, just because you deal with writer’s block or fatigue or pulling your hair out – do you do that? I’ve never experienced it – or slamming your head against a brick wall – or your keyboard. I don’t recommend either – those things do not mean there is no starlight dust to be found, or that what you’re struggling with isn’t what you should be writing. Beware of falling into those excuses.

There are, of course,¬†many, many¬†other sources for that special light only you can give your story. We wouldn’t have enough time to write down or read through all of them. Perhaps the major ones are the two highlighted here – convictions/you and passion. But many more exist and only you can uncover what starlight dust means for you.

So, while you’re puzzling over that, go watch¬†The Man Who Invented Christmas.¬†I saw it in theaters yesterday for my first-ever visit to a theater. (I know, I know. I’m sixteen and have never been to a theater.) It was an interesting experience. ūüôā

Tell me, friends, what does starlight dust mean to you? Any tidbits you can share to encourage someone struggling as I was with figuring out¬†what’s wrong with this story? And perhaps the most important question of the day . . . drumroll commences . . . drumroll ends . . . HAVE YOU SEEN¬†THE MAN WHO INVENTED CHRISTMAS¬†YET!

Writing From an Unexpected Perspective

It may truly help a story.

So, think back to something you might have written from a non-human POV. Was it a tree? A butterfly? A goat? Short stories especially can benefit from placing the POV in the hands – or paws, or talons – of another creature. The whole “if these walls could talk” sort of thing. Even some novels have excelled in their genre using this unique vantage point.


It all depends on your story. Take¬†The Humbling of Rutherford¬†for example. I wrote this little piece for Faithwriter’s a year or so ago, detailing a day in the life of a rooster we used to have. It was penned in third person omniscient, so as to capture the POV of Rutherford, as well as the farm dogs and the other chickens.

Then there was a story my mom wrote several years ago from the perspective of a tree, an abandoned house, and the land on which these two sat. It was the deep, moving writing that made it special, as well as the POVs – you don’t often hear an abandoned house telling its story, or listen to the voice of its only enduring friend, the pine tree.


Take this picture for example:


If I were to write a story based on this photo, would I tell it from Giddy’s (the goat’s) POV or from the butterfly’s? Or both? Personally, I believe I would write it using both their POVs, in order to capture the emerging of this butterfly and the brief wonder and irritation of Giddy. ūüôā However, I could also tell it from a by-standing goat’s perspective, or another creature. I could also tell it from just the butterfly’s perspective. Any of these would likely work to create an effective story.

At any rate, using a non-human POV can really add an endearing quality to a story. Have you had any experience with this? Any moments like the butterfly and the goat you could write a story from? How about a chicken or a songbird? Or an insect or a cat? Let’s chat about our furry friends! They can certainly make their way onto the page without much effort.

The Many Uses for Secondary Characters

So, no matter what you’re writing, you probably have some characters that aren’t as important as the MC(s), but they’re just kinda there. The awesome thing about these seemingly unimportant characters? They can become important. Remember, you’re the author. You can more or less make them do what you want. However, it does sometimes feel like the story has taken on a life of its own. ūüôā

There are numerous uses for a secondary character. One of the best, they’re expendable. If you need a character to get killed off, but you can’t bear to do it to a main character, consider fashioning a secondary one for that purpose alone. *wicked chuckle* Make them likable, too. *wicked chuckle*

Anyway, another great use for your secondary characters is how they can subtly influence the plot to steer it in a desired direction. For instance, I once wrote a draft in which an SC caused the main character to end up in this particular situation, which was the climax. She did this unintentionally Рit was her presence and what that brought about in the story.

You can also have one or two SC(s) create a subplot. However, be aware that subplots can be used to “kill some time” and not to move the story along. You pretty much want everything – or close to everything, at least – to move your story along.


It depends on their level of importance. You may have them start out in the first draft as a secondary character and end up by the last draft as an MC. It happens. ūüôā But how often a strictly SC will appear depends totally on the way you’re using them in the story. Typically, these characters in my stories have very important roles,¬†but remain expendable.


That’s always possible, but if writing a first draft, don’t worry about it. You can edit later. Just remember if you’re bringing in an SC, it is probably to build on or move forward the story.

And now, LET’S CHAT.¬†How do you use secondary characters in your story? Have I left something out? What is your opinion on subplots? Pour yourself some apple cider – or coffee, if you prefer – and I’ll bring dessert. Healthy dessert, mind you. ūüôā Anybody up for carrot cake?

Pinterest – Is it Good for Writers?

So, Pinterest is pretty popular now, and you have to admit, fun. But it’s remarkable how many writers actually use this social media outlet to connect with readers. Is it worth the time? I’ve been on Pinterest for quite a while now, and building up a following is a¬†S-L-O-W¬†process. Using this outlet requires a great deal of time. The more pins you save, the more diverse your boards, the more people you’ll reel in.

Plus, readers love to connect with a favorite author any way they can. I know I always love seeing a story through the eyes of its writer, and what they save on Pinterest is a good way to see that.

But that’s the reader’s side of things. How about the writer’s?

We’re writers. We’re¬†people,¬†I think. We’re busy. So, is the time that it takes to build up a foundation on Pinterest actually worth it?

As I’ve yet to publish a novel, I can only speak on this topic from two standpoints – an aspiring writer, and a reader.


I look for an author I like on Pinterest. I devour whatever it is they have to say about¬†their¬†work through what they pin. In addition, when I know somebody has a new book coming out, I’ll look for hints on that story’s Pinterest board. ūüôā


I love it. Pinterest enables me to organize my ideas, share them with others – or not, as I often start a board as a secret board – and collect bits of inspiration for my WIP. See, I’m weird about my characters. I can’t see them. So Pinterest helps me nail down in my own mind what my characters might look like. That’s a serious plus for me.


It is time-consuming. You don’t have to have a ton of boards, but the ones you have should be filled in so a potential reader can stay a while to explore.

If you’re dedicating a lot of your account to writing, you may want to consider having boards like “Character Inspiration” or “Writing Inspiration” or “For Readers.” Stuff like that, as it could help to bring in more people.

So, basically, I have found Pinterest very helpful and a lot of fun. Please share your opinion and experiences with us! It would be a huge help for us newbies. ūüôā

By the way . . . if you’re interested in my new WIP, hop on over to Pinterest. I’ve just published the previously secret storyboard for y’all! Check it out!

Let’s chat.¬†Let me know your experiences with Pinterest. (And don’t forget to drop by the new storyboard.) ūüôā

Crafting Characters – the Protagonist

First, my sincere apologies for wandering so from this blog. A full explanation will be available at the closing of this post, so in the meantime, let’s chat about characters. They’re so important, you know. Especially your MC, your protagonist. Just like there’s a way to nail the antagonist of your story, there’s a way to nail this one, too.


In short, yes. And no. You see, depending on where the plot takes your story, you may want this character to start out on the wrong side. Plenty of good books take this approach and, personally, I love it. However, let me caution you against the mistake I’ve made in the past – if you take this approach, outline ahead of time¬†how the protagonist comes to “see the light,”¬†so to speak. Logistics in this area are crucial.

So no, the MC doesn’t have to be on the good side all the way through. Though I wouldn’t recommend you end your story with him/her on the dark side. That could be a slippery slope. ūüôā Ooo, but say you had a trilogy and ended the first book that way . . . ¬†Hmm . . .


Isn’t that what we all want? A hero? A fictional someone so infinitely better than us that we can wish we were like?

Sure, we do, but that isn’t life, and makes for a bit of a fluffy story. In fiction, we want¬†life.¬†Bring out the darkness, show it for what it is, make your protagonist a broken soul, but bring about victory at the end. That’s the whole point. Victory. Hope. Light at the end of the tunnel. Besides, a perfect-no-scars-or-mistakes hero who saves the day simply won’t be relatable.

God alone is perfection, and we cannot be. Neither should our fictional characters.


There are, of course, many more ways to and no to craft a protagonist, but let’s save some for another day, shall we? These are good for starters.

And I’m back into blogging after a long absence. Explanation – I was insanely busy. We all were, what with harvesting the garden, milking the goats, harvesting the garden, setting up summer pastures, harvesting the garden . . . ¬†You get the idea, right?

Now that we’re rolling a little easier again, you tell me something – what writing things and bookish things would you like to see on this blog? We share this writing adventure. We’re in it together. Let’s chat!

Writing a Synopsis – How to and How Not

Don’t forget to stop by my new blog, Diary of a Teenage Prepper, for fun homesteading updates!


It doesn’t seem like it would be that big of an issue, right? A synopsis just states what the book is about. No problem.

If only . . .

Today, let us delve into the tricks, the how-tos and how-not-tos, of writing a synopsis.


The best way to figure out how to write a synopsis is to read them. How much info do they give? How much do they withhold? Take note of key words and phrases. Is the title of the book incorporated into the synopsis or left out? Above all, does it make you want to find out what happens? All of these things are critical points of crafting a gripping synopsis.


I can’t think of any synopsis that is “perfect.” They’re just blurbs, more or less, and perfection is vastly opinion, but anyway – #2. Practice writing a synopsis for your WIP. No matter the stage, write one out and read it over and over again, compare it with the ones you’ve read, read it to someone else. All of these things should help smooth out a synopsis for your work.


I have heard it said that a common problem among authors looking to self-publish is a synopsis that is too long. Just remember, you’re giving the reader a taste, not the entire banquet. You aren’t writing a book report in which every detail must be disclosed. But for that matter, don’t make it too short, either.


A synopsis, in my opinion, is every bit as important as, say, the cover or the first line. It is the invitation for a reader to pick up the book and read it.¬†A synopsis is important. You don’t have to stress over it. Maybe try incorporating a few of these thoughts to get you started. I’ve even used the creation of a synopsis to help in my outlining, and believe me, it does help.


A grabbing sentence to start off a synopsis can be a pretty great idea. So can a what-if question. After all, a creative what-if setting in a plot – “What if gravity worked in the opposite way?” “What if the sky was orange?” “What if humans were the size of ladybugs?” – can pull a reader in all on its own. So if you’re story has its own what-if, why leave it out when creating your synopsis?

And because she’s one of my favorite authors, I can’t resist sharing her fantastic what-if-question synopsis. Nadine Brandes wrote the Out of Time Series, and her opener for the first of those novels was entirely gripping. Here’s why: “How would you live if you knew the day you’d die?” Who can resist¬†that? I don’t want to know the day I’ll die, so if this character does . . . well, I have to know about it. ūüôā

TELL ME YOUR OPINION! What pulls you into a book? Is it the cover? Synopsis? First line? Last line? (I should¬†hope¬†it’s not the last line.) Let me hear from you in the comments! We’ll chat about bookish things.

Crafting Characters – Antagonist’s Apex

There’s a trick to crafting your antagonist. As much as it may seem like their only purpose is to throw a wrench in things for your MC(s) and be hated by the readers, that is not entirely true. The best way to nail down a solid antagonist is to give them a side that can be related to and felt for by the reader and by you.

Yep, I said it. If you can’t swallow that yet, that’s okay. Keep on!


What I’ve called the antagonist apex is where the reader is brought to a point or a side of the character that makes them stop and grumble, “I thought I was supposed to hate him/her” because they’ve suddenly found him/her to be slightly less hateable than they thought . . . ¬†Is that confusing? Here’s a good example.


Martin Cummins as Henry Gowen in “When Calls the Heart”

In the popular frontier TV series When Calls the Heart (all you fellow “hearties” please raise your hand in the comments!), you will find one of the best examples of a remarkably solid antagonist. Henry Gowen, as portrayed by Martin Cummins, has so many different levels of character,¬†good and bad,¬†that it’s hard to keep up. He is seen as despicably evil at times and is completely despised, and as someone deeper at other times, someone with more on the inside than just greed.

Because of this, he cannot be universally hated. This makes him a great antagonist, and makes whoever wrote his character a really good writer. ūüôā


This is one of the more, I believe, optional parts of writing. You by no means have to make your antagonist 3-dimensional, but it is highly recommended. Fill in the cracks Рmake them human. Give them a cause we can understand Рnot agree with, but understand. Give them a motivation that is clear and realistic. But above all, make them human. Give them qualities and depth that leave the reader Рand maybe even your protagonist Рfeeling just a tiny bit sorry for them.

AND NOW . . . let me hear your opinion!

Have you had any experience with these things in the past, whether in work you’ve read or written? Do you agree or disagree with this approach to an antagonist? Do you feel the reader¬†should¬†despise that character? Why or why not? Don’t be shy! Let’s chat.

Happily Ever After – Really? How to Nail Your Story’s Ending

“And they lived happily ever after.”

We’ve all heard it a million-quadrillion-zillion-times-two times. So-and-so saved the day, so-and-so was happy, and¬†they lived happily ever after. But did you ever stop to think how unrealistic that is? It’s the stuff that belongs in age-old fairy tales and bedtime stories, but¬†not¬†in today’s fiction.

Fiction, even if it is unrealistic fantasy or dystopian or sci-fi, must have an ending that is believable. You can wrap things up as much as you want – you can even smack the horridly cliche “happily ever after” thing at the end – but it won’t make your manuscript better.

My advice for nailing the ending of your story?¬†Don’t write what’s been written a thousand times over.¬†Make it memorable. Make it stick. Make it tough. Make it solid.


Duh. The obvious ones are the fairy tales. And that’s just fine. Let happily ever after stay with the fairy tales and let us move on. However, if you are penning a retelling of a fairy tale,¬†don’t let it be happily ever after.¬†Now¬†that¬†would be good.

Another example of this sort of cliche ending is¬†Pride and Prejudice,¬†the movie. I haven’t read the book, so I can’t speak for that, but the movie is certainly “happily ever after.” All the important characters – except maybe Lydia – have¬†found their truest love and all is well. And while perhaps this movie isn’t the best example in the world,¬†the movie¬†The Princess Bride¬†certainly is. That’s as cliche happily ever after as it gets. Just saying. And don’t get me wrong, I love that movie!


Not-so-happily is what you need to nail down a solid ending for your story. Yeah, it can be tough, it can be annoying, because you love your characters sooooo much, they just have to have it all together! Yeah, no.

Okay, so some examples. Let’s see.¬†Lord of the Rings. Here’s probably the best example. The day is saved, but the characters still have to deal with the fallout, and the aftermath that it results in causes the not-so-happily ending to the trilogy. Don’t let that discourage you from becoming a LotR fanatic, though. It’s epicness at its finest! ūüôā ¬†As a writer, learn from J.R.R Tolkien.


Let me see . . .  One more example . . .  *fishes through bookshelf*

Ah! The River of Time Series by Lisa Bergren. Awesome books, awesome characters, good plots . . . and even better, a not-so-happily ending to the series. Now, both of these examples were wrapped up fine in the end of the story, they just were not happily ever afters.


If you can look at the end of your story and say, “They all lived happily ever after.” ūüôā ¬†Or more specifically, if you can say that “all’s well that end’s well” or “all my characters and readers and fans are so happy with this ending.” That’s dangerous. Don’t forget, you can’t please everyone. Better to please the One you’re ultimately writing¬†for¬†than to please the ones you’re writing¬†about.


Easy as pie. Ironic that it’s taken about five-hundred words so far to explain a few simple things.

Leave some loose ends, especially where secondary characters are concerned.

Allow mistakes made during the story to have some residual effect towards the end.

Leave room for character growth. This is so important. If you’re writing a series, this is more geared to book one, but if you’re writing a standalone, it’s just as crucial. Leave room for characters to grow some more after the book is closed. People want a hero, but a hero without flaws is wasted space.

If you’re writing a series, let every book¬†before the final one¬†end in a cliffhanger. I don’t recommend a cliffhanger for the last book, if you want to keep your readers. *grins an evil author grin and pulls more examples from the shelf*


A not-so-happily ending is as important as it is because happily ever after isn’t life. Many readers want happily ever after in a book, so as a writer, you’ll have to answer that part for yourself. But I’ve answered it for me, and I hope you can find some wisdom from this if it applies to you at all. I don’t want my writing to be wrapped up in a neat bow. Period.

AND WHAT ABOUT YOU? Leave feedback. I’d love to hear how you, my friend, have or have not conquered the happily-ever-after trend in your work. Whether you’ve discarded it from your writing or not, I’d love to hear about it! Share your notes, and leave your experiences behind for others to learn from.

God bless you all this June, and my Highlights and Goals post is coming next post, just so you all know.