A Writing Journey

Posts tagged ‘first draft’

Trust yourself.

A long time has passed. Longer than I’d ever intended, and so much has changed in my life. But if you are here, it’s to read about writing, not me. So here is what I have to say:

Trust yourself.

You may have heard before that as writers we have to trust our readers, they will follow where we lead. But trust yourself, too. You know your story, you knew it when you wrote the first draft, even before then. If you are revising or editing, hold off on the pen. Maybe you want to include something – chances are you already have – and in a better way than your gut reaction is telling you to. If you are writing the first draft, just write it. Don’t get hung up on conventions or the perfect word. Trust that you will get there. Because you will.

Thank you for sticking with me through the years.


Your first draft is done, and you may want to start sending it out or letting people read it straight away. You shouldn’t. Let it sit, let it rest, and then after a few weeks (or months, or whatever), come back to the desk and look at it afresh. You will see bits and pieces that don’t fit, rocks among your gems, and you will get to work editing.*

So how does one go about self-editing? It’s a tricky business, I’ll tell you that. It’s tricky because you know what you’ve written, and you may either be sentimentally attached to certain parts of the story that need to be seriously changed (or deleted altogether) or you may skim over your writing and miss things that need to be fixed. If you are like me, you may intentionally gloss over something that you know is wrong, but you aren’t sure how to fix it yet.

Thus the first step in self-editing is to READ CAREFULLY. In fact, read out loud, slowly. When you do this, you will catch things that you would likely not catch reading silently (think awkward word pairings, misspelled words, horrifyingly long sentences). Read once through without changing anything.** Doing this will give you a good sense of your story, how it flows (or doesn’t) and what places need work. Once you’ve read through, go back to the beginning and get started editing with the following tips:

1.Get rid of your “catch phrases”

We all have certain words or phrases that we tend to use more frequently than others. You’ll notice them as you read, and you will remember them. A few times through the book is okay, because your reader may or may not remember that the phrase you used on page 238 is the same as on page 24. HOWEVER I will advise to use particularly “pretty” phrases or words (think quiescence) only once. A word that your reader has to look up or a phrase that they will linger on WILL be remembered. Go ahead and rework these phrases, choose different words, and go on from there. You may have to do this several times.

2. Cut “very”

Do you remember the scene from The Dead Poet’s Society where Mr. Keating talks about “very”? He warns the boys to pick stronger words. And now I’m warning you. If you are using “very” to beef up your verbs or adverbs, you need to work harder. And I know it’s tough. Sometimes you just can’t think of the perfect word. That’s why we edit more than once, and why when we are writing the first draft, we don’t worry so much about “verys.” But to make your novel as strong as it an be, pick “crucial” instead of “very important.”

3.Check your POV

No matter if you are writing in first or third, point of view is crucial to your story. (See what I did there? Huh, huh?) First of all, you should pick a point of view and stick with it. If you pick to follow two characters, alternating between them, don’t all of a sudden drop one (unless they die – which in that case I hope it’s a mystery and we know something the protagonist doesn’t!) or add a third. I’ll give you an example. If you’ve been a follower here for a long time, you know that I LOVE Robin Hobb. This is probably the only complaint I will ever have against her. In one of her recent novels, she changed perspectives and started following a different character – without any indication that this is what she was doing. It was confusing and, to be honest, it took me a couple pages to understand. I did understand, but for those few moments I was not immersed in the story – and our goal as writers is to keep the reader immersed.

When you are writing a single character, try to make sure that every word you write reflects that character. If your own biases or stylistic word choices slip in, cut them. Be careful about consistency. Your novel will shine when you are consistent.

4.Grammar, typos, and formatting

The general stuff, right? Make sure you use correct grammar (or stylistically consistent grammar). Correct misspellings and repeat words. Make sure that your formatting is consistent throughout the manuscript. It’s tedious stuff, but important. Publishers and agents expect a level of expertise when it comes to writing.

I hope these tips will help you as you begin self-editing, and if you have more, please feel free to share them in the comments below!

Take care,


*You may also need to rewrite huge swaths of your story. This is fine. This is expected. This is probably needed.

**Mark places that you feel need work, if you must. But try your best to refrain from changing things! You want to come into the work with “fresh” eyes – as a reader not a writer. It will help in the long-run, I promise.

The Unknown

Do you ever get to that point in your project, when you start to wonder what you’ll write  next? Not the next page or chapter, but your next book. I’m there now. I’ve finished yet another edit of Quest for Salvation (one that I was itching to do and once I got that rejection letter, I knew I could do it!), finished typing up the sequel, and I’m about 1/3 -1/2 of the way done with the third. I have an outline that takes me to the end, and I’ve been making steady progress.

So what will come next? I have lots of ideas, some I’ve even started writing out the first few pages. But they don’t feel right yet. It could be because I’m still immersed in Lacey’s world, it could be because I’ve spent so much time there building it up that everything else just feels hollow. I logically know that the next project I settle on will grow and develop to be just as good, if not better, than my current one.

To be honest, I’m trying my best to push back this worry and just focus on the writing – which works when I am actually, physically writing. I know I have a long way to go and a lot of time left with these manuscripts – after all book 2 is only a first draft – yeesh!

But I also like to plan ahead. And that means starting to think what I will do next. Will I stay in the same world and pick a different character, a different time? I have plenty to choose from! And a part of me yearns to write those stories as well. Another part, however, whispers, “Go somewhere else for a while. See different worlds. Don’t neglect your other ideas.” And it is this voice that has me wondering what, then, I will write next.

For now, I will keep writing what I’m writing, keep stewing on other ideas, and when the time comes, I will have another idea settled to shape and form and make great.

Take care,


Meeting Goals and Feeling Good

Howdy and Happy Fourth to my USA readers!

And a very fond howdy to the rest of my readers as well, I hope EVERYONE is enjoying the day.

Well, that goal I set, of having the first draft of Scourge of the Daiyen done by Sunday (tomorrow)? Accomplished. I finished the draft yesterday. I will say, as I was typing up some of my pages, I realized there was a giant chunk missing from the middle, but I will work on that in the next draft because, for continuity’s sake, rewriting will have to be done.

My next step? To finish typing the blasted thing. After that I’ll print it out and start working on draft 2!

Even though I have a general synopsis of book 3 written out, I am going to hold off on working on that until I get book 2 better off. I probably won’t write an outline even until I’m ready to start.

Still haven’t heard from the publisher – not that I’m surprised. It hasn’t even been a month yet. 🙂

As for other creative projects, I’m grilling some crazy recipes today (well, not too crazy): watermelon with chili powder, cilantro, and lime juice; corn with honey-sriracha butter. I’m also crocheting another blanket (have I mentioned my blanket obsession?) and a hat for the winter (I’m getting started early!).

Wishing all of you well,


Deadlines are Bad Lines.

In the wake of yesterday’s post (in which I mentioned that Summer is usually a great time of writing for me) I have hit a minor wall. I can’t say exactly what it is, but I think I know the why. I have set myself a deadline for finishing this draft. WHY OH WHY DID I DO THAT? I knew better.

To try and break down the wall, I contacted a writer friend of mine, just to chat and see how he is doing and hopefully kick myself into gear. It sort of worked. I’ve been typing up some handwritten pages (how all my drafts start) and even realized that there are significant scenes (chapters….) missing from the middle of this tale. I have on a post-it what I will need to add. This will probably push back my goal date, but that is OKAY WITH ME. I’m not even going to set myself a new date, because look what it did to me. 😦

Oh well. Tomorrow is a new day and today wasn’t a total loss.

Hang in there!

THE SEQUEL – aka *happy dance*

Okay, so I’ve been pretty slow with getting the first draft of THE SEQUEL done. I mean, I went about eight months without writing a single word (and thinking of it only occasionally). But as some people know, summer is my time to write. I don’t know why, but I am always much more productive in the summer.

As such, I only have two and a half more chapters of THE SEQUEL to go (I’m calling it The Scourge of the Daiyen, the Daiyen being the part of the world they are in for this story). I’m really excited! And to top the cake, I finally have a progression of plot points lined up for BOOK THREE. No, I don’t have an outline yet (which really helped me for THE SEQUEL!) but I will get to that when I am done with this draft (hopefully this week??? I don’t want to get my hopes up – I know how I am with time frames!) At least that is the goal I’m setting. By next Sunday evening, July 5th, I will be done with THE SEQUEL’s first draft. I won’t give myself a maybe!

Anyway, I hope all of your projects are going well. I hope that the summer is being as kind to you as it is to me (despite the heat), and I hope that you are having fun being creative!

Keep Writing!

I believe myself that a good writer doesn't really need to be told anything except to keep at it. Chinua Achebe

This is what I am telling myself these days – just keep at it. Going back and writing a first draft again is difficult work. It’s hard to switch back into the mindset of creating rather than polishing. But the story isn’t over. Lacey has to keep going, so I have to too.

No word about my submission yet. I figure it will be a few months. I’ll keep you posted. 🙂

WIP Updates

Well, revisions are coming along nicely for QFS. Some of the chapters require more work than others,  but I am pleased to say that overall the revisions are minor,  and mostly consist of converting narration from “telling” to “showing.” This is an enjoyable process because I get to add detail and play with the order of words to match my narrator’s voice.

I have also been working in the first draft of the sequel and am about six chapters in. So far I am happy with it,  and especially happy that I am following my outline so well!  I can’t wait to get the first draft done,  but it will be a while yet.  Still,  I am happy.

How are your various projects coming along?

Take care,  fellow travelers.

Those Productive Days

What to do with all my time? I was write, when I guessed that moving to a new place was going to give me lots of free time, and that I would use that time to read and write. In the two weeks and one day that I have been in my own apartment, I have read four books, edited six chapters, recorded readings of three of those edited chapters, written two chapters of my next novel, and written numerous scenes/plot summaries/outlines for various other novels (all set in my same world).  Whew! And that was in the midst of moving in, getting settled, and starting training for my new job! Looking back on these two weeks, I feel pretty proud at how much I’ve accomplished.

This last weekend, in particular, was especially fruitful. On Friday I got my new library card and read “Daughter of the Forest” cover to cover in the span of two and a half days (yes, I have to do other things like cook and clean – otherwise it might have been one and a half!). After I finished that on Sunday morning, I set to work on the sequel to Quest for Salvation (which at this point I am calling Scourge of the Daiyen). I was part way through chapter four the last time I stopped work on it, and that was about three months ago. Now I am at the beginning of chapter six! I have to say, I’m really excited!

Now I have two more books to read (in addition to all those unread books that I actually own) and I can’t wait to get back to my writing. I know where this story is going – not just this novel, but the one that comes after it and I have a rough idea of how my others stories that take place in this world are going to play out.

I know I can’t keep this up forever. I know, that sooner or later I am going to have another minor freakout about my writing. I know that I will have to take a break from my voracious reading. I know that I will have to set aside my novel and do something else for a few days.

But I also know that every word I write gets me closer to where I want to be – on the shelves of a bookstore, on the shelves of dear readers, spreading the story that speaks to my soul. Every word I read helps me learn more about myself and helps me develop my own voice. Even when I have to take a break, I know I will come back. I always do.

Have you had any productive days lately? What books have you been reading? How are your projects (whether they are books, paintings, or fixing that leaky gutter) coming along?

Take care, fellow travelers!

Join the official Write Your Novel this Summer Challenge

A great way to get motivated to write the first draft!

Write on the World

I recently wrote a blog post in which I discussed author Stephen King’s view that you should never take more than a season to write a novel. In that post, I posed a challenge to my readers to “write your novel this summer.” I’ve been thinking about this challenge, and I think it might be fun to make it a real “thing.”

How cool would it be if a bunch of us banded together to support each other in knocking out that first draft of the novels we’ve all been meaning to get around to? It could be kind of like NaNoWriMo, only we get an entire season rather than just one month. I don’t know about you, but if I’m going to write a novel in one month, November is just about the worst month of the year to do it in!

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