First Drafting Basics

We all know the question: are you a plotter or a pantster? Or maybe something in between?

I raise the question: what does it matter? Ultimately, the story will be written, and the story world figured out. And no matter which way you write, you will need to at least a little prep and some discovery writing.

Things you need to write a story.

Now this is by no means the ultimate drafting guide. Everyone has their different methods, abilities, preferences. Some writers wing a draft 100%. Others do tons and tons of preparation. Others do a mix of both.

That being said, in order to write a book, I do believe there are a few things you need to know.

-POV Characters. Basically, your main character. Then some supporting characters (some may get chapters in their POV, if the story is to be written that way).
-Plot. We may or may not know everything that will happen, but we usually have at least some vague idea.

This is where drafting splits off. Some people start writing at this point. They'll discover the rest on their own. Others keep figuring out the plot before writing.

But, ultimately...plotters and pantsters...we're still doing the same thing. We're figuring out the plot and characters. A plotter will figure out the story and then write the draft, while a pantster will write the draft and figure out the story more or less at the same time. (Hopefully that made a little sense.)

When I take the time to flesh all the details and the characters out, it may be a while before I can actually start writing the actual draft. But when I do write it, it may be neater, tidier, without trashed plot lines and character arcs.

But if I jump in the draft after little or no prep, it may be a little messier. But it's also written, so I have something I can start editing and working through right away. I've seen first-hand the character voice and story world and plot all expand and grow.

Neither way is better. Everyone is different. But to do either way successfully, you really need to do a few things beforehand...

...which I will talk about during February. And I won't even give you hints about what is coming up...just that whether you are a plotter, a pantster, or plantster, hopefully you'll be able to take away something. :)

So, anyways, hope you enjoy what's coming up in the next couple weeks!

Is Your Character Brave?

Say your MC is running towards danger. All the other characters are shaking their heads and thinking, "Man, he/she is brave!"

But is he/she really brave?

Maybe they're just (pardon my language) stupid. They don't fully realize the danger they're going into, and they're just rushing in headlong without even really stopping to think.

Maybe they're reckless. Again, they may not be fully calculating the results of their actions. They see a possible escape, and they jump. They'll think about it later, if they survive.

Maybe they're careless (for lack of a better word) in regards to their life. They have either made peace with death (and so aren't scared of it), or their life is so horrible that death is preferable, so if they die...meh.

Maybe they're desperate. When faced with capture and torture or a "possible escape or possible death" they'll take the chance (however slim) of escape.

Maybe they've done this sort of things hundreds of times now, and it's not scary to them. It's just part of the job, their daily life.

For a character to really, truly be brave, they need to face something they're actually really and truly scared of.

I'm a slightly timid person. I have to stand on the edge of that cliff for a minute or two before I jump down into the river. All the possible outcomes - landing on a rock or shallow spot, getting water up my nose, drowning, sea monsters - go through my head. I have to remind myself that I'm a good swimmer, that I've tested the depths and it's deep enough and clear of rocks, that everyone else has jumped and survived.

So then I take a deep breath and close my eyes and jump. And I survive. I was brave to jump.

But then I climb up and do it again, without a single hesitation. Is that second jump brave? Not really. Now I'm not scared. I know I'll be fine.

What about my friends, the ones who didn't hesitate even on the first jump. Were they brave? Maybe. Maybe they were simple reckless or stupid. Maybe they were brave.

I was the chicken here. I was not the brave (at first) one. But find a different situation. My friends who were oh-so-ready to jump off that cliff are now faced with answering a unknown number calling their phone. The idea of talking to a random stranger makes them a little nervous, so they don't answer. I, however, whip out my phone and answer it calmly.

Am I brave? No. My job is office manager. I talk to strangers on the phone all day. I'm used to it. Was I born extroverted and talkative? Not really. I was nervous about talking on the phone when I started, but after years of doing it, it's just part of daily life for me.

So let's use this to strengthen our writing.

That character of yours who is calmly rushing into battle, that character who jumps through windows, that character who calmly stares down the villain...are they really being brave?

In order to be brave, you first have to be scared.

So find out what your characters are scared of.

That character who rushes into battle...she's really just reckless. But she happens to be scared of dogs. So...let's make her run into dogs. She's normally so snarky and confident, but now that the villain is standing there with a dog, she freezes and can't think of what to do next.

To be brave, she'll have to face that dog (or those dogs), and maybe steal the key from off their collar or sneak past them to make her escape.

That character who casually jumps off the roof or through windows or does other daring things? He's alone in life. If he dies, no one will really mourn him. He doesn't care for anyone, but he does care for drama, so if he dies, hey, it's a great way to go.

But then he realizes he wants to live or that he has a family now or someone who depends on him. And he has to start thinking about actually living for tomorrow. To be brave, he may have to stand down and wait for a less risky escape, just so he can guarantee his survival for that other person (or even a dog or pet, haha).

So really stretch and find your character's fears. Find that line they won't cross and make them face it. Even if your character is decidedly brave, maybe they don't like germs, and arrive at a country where the sharing of a communal glass of wine is proper custom and they have to drink after everyone else or risk the wrath of the King.

Find their breaking points, find what they're scared of doing and/or facing, and take them there and push them. *cue evil author laugh*

Bribing Myself

Why do we have to use rewards to make ourselves do something we want to do?

I do this to myself a lot.

My goals are set month by month, and this past September I was going to fall short of my goal if I didn't step up. Admittedly, I'd been goofing off a bit; I also had a hard few days where I let myself relax and go to bed early instead of write.

So I told myself "if you reach your goal, you can buy a nice new book off Amazon."

That was Friday. I buckled down and sped through Friday night and Saturday night. I don't write on Sundays. Then Monday evening rolled around. I sat on my bed after family devotions and said "I'm going to get this done."

And I did. I got a little tired around 10:30, so I washed my face, brushed my teeth, and got into my PJs. Then back to writing. And I did it. I finished the tenth draft (or editing round) or Words of Bravery.

After thinking about it the next day, I decided not to get myself that book. Why? (Mostly because I'm cheap and I have way too many books waiting around to be read anyway.)

But mostly because I wanted that draft to be finished. I wanted to have it done. Because I want to be published.

I shouldn't have to bribe myself to do something I already want to do.

The draft being complete is reward enough. It got done by the deadline I set. And now that book is complete (save maybe one final grammar/nitpicking edit). It's done.

That's my reward.

Setting goals for yourself is great, and adding rewards might be helpful. But if you have to trick yourself, bribe yourself, pull yourself along kicking and screaming, to get something done that you know you want honest. You're lazy.


"I'm not lazy." I say that to myself a lot. I work 9-5, come home and do farm work until dinner.

"I earned this." I say to myself as I mindlessly scroll through FaceBook while my writing time ticks away.

"I'm not feeling it." I say as I stop editing after 15 minutes.

"I'm just tired." I say as I put my laptop away and then spend the next 20 minutes on Instagram - and not going to bed.


I'm done. I'm done claiming I'm too tired to write and then staying up watching Studio C videos. I'm done wasting my time.

Yes, I know I need to take care of myself. I know I need to make sure I don't get "burnt out" and all. But y'know what? Earlier in the day I was out going for a quick, relaxing horse ride. After dinner I played a few songs on the piano. I watched a Studio C with my little sisters before they went to bed. I don't need any more "chill time" for the day. I need to stop watching YouTube and I need to sit my butt on my bed and I need to write.

I'm sick and tired of not feeling "in the mood" to write. I'm tired of my lazy self procrastinating and putting things off and convincing myself I deserve time off. I'm tired of feeling guilty when I check the time and realize I don't actually feel tired and I could have spent the last 30 minutes editing instead of doing absolutely nothing productive.

I'm sick and tired of baiting myself. I'm done with that, guys. I'm going to set my goals, and I'm going to reach those goals, and I'm not going to drag myself through every milestone. I'm going to buckle down and hold myself responsible for my time and make sure I'm not just wasting my evenings and I'm going to get these books done.

I'm sick and tired of being a writer. I want to be an author. And that will be my reward.

Why Characters Should Stay Dead

It's a current popular plot "twist" these days: characters who die but don't stay dead.

(Caution, spoilers ahead for a few movies/books.)

We all know the drill. That character hanging off the cliff lets go...the building gets blown up with someone inside...Bucky falls off the train...and all the other characters are devastated. They cry and mourn and maybe the readers/watchers cry too.

Then the next book/movie comes out (or sometimes you just wait for a few scenes or chapters), and that "dead" character shows up. Maybe they're the villain now. Or maybe they've been tortured by the villain. Or maybe they've been wounded and fending for themselves. Or they just stroll over and act like nothing ever changed. 

They didn't really die. Something cushioned their fall. Something protected them. They planned it from the beginning. It was just a trick.

Or maybe a different character uses magic or whatever is available to them in their world to bring that actually-dead character back.

It happens so much, we've almost come to expect it. The character falls, their friends cry, and while we shed a tear or two, we keep reading/watching, eagerly awaiting their "unexpected" return.

Why can't they just stay dead?

They can and sometimes they should. Other times, bringing them back to life can be good and well. So let's look further into this.

Keep Them Dead Because It's Simply Realistic

As much as it hurts to loose a loved one, we can't bring them back. We may see them again in Heaven someday, but for now, they are no longer on this earth. They're out of the story. No resurrections this time (to quote Thanos on the quite-possible-permanent-death of Loki). It brings a sense of realism to the story. It shows you're serious about this book.

Keep Them Dead to Raise the Stakes

Like I said, show you're serious. Show the readers that your villains really and truly are dangerous. They will kill. People will die because of them. We're raising the stakes here. People have died, people the readers love. It's time to make the villain pay.

In a World of Not-Really-Deaders, Surprise Readers with an Actually-Deader

You wanna stab your readers in the heart? Don't bring that character back. Just...don't. Their story is finished, more or less. It'll make readers continue to think about your book (even if it's only to grow that harboring resentment against you, the author) after they read it. It'll make them go back and re-read the parts with that character because they realize how precious few paragraphs they really have with him/her.

Keep Them Dead Because Deaths Drive Action

Death impacts the other characters. It spurs them into action. They want revenge. They want to make the villain pay. They want to see their friend(s) didn't die in vain. It also serves for a low point in the book, that "dark night of the soul" moment where everything seems black and hopeless.

Of course, we can still get achieve this and then bring the character back later. So let's talk about how to do this correctly.

Don't Bring Them Back Because You Only Killed Them Off to Horrify Readers in the First Place

Marvel brings back a lot of their characters who "die", right? Because those characters are well loved and because Marvel wants to continue making money off of them.

When rewatching the movies, guess which is the only death to make me cry? Quicksilver's death, because he doesn't come back. Bucky falls off the train, and I'm like "Oh, yeah, poor Steve, but he'll find him later. Yeah, Bucky gets captured by Hydra, but he makes it through." But Quicksilver dies, and Wanda looses her brother. Forever. He doesn't return.

Do you want your readers to stop mourning for character deaths because they're 90% sure that character will come back later? If they know you resurrect half your "dead" characters, they won't be so emotional when a character dies.

Kill Them For a Reason

Don't kill that character off simply because you want to make readers cry. And then bring them back later because you actually kinda still need them, or because you want to make readers get all excited and happy.

No. Kill that character and watch readers stare in horror as they slowly realize he/she isn't coming back. Ever. They're gone.

Kill them to show the tough battle they're fighting. To show that there really is danger. To show what the villain is capable of, or that the heroes have to work together before they all die. To show the price of the heroes mistakes.

Make sure every character death is there for a reason. Don't just kill them (and bring them back) just for fun. Every death needs to pack a punch. And keeping them dead will do just that.

2019 Recap

So. 2019 is over.

-Presbytery was in Canada, and I got to meet some awesome people and see many old friends
-Went to Realm Makers with Sarah and Evan and met my writing peeps
-Got to pitch Words of Bravery at Realm Makers (haven't got any responses back...which isn't a no, haha)(okay, so maybe it is a no after waiting this long...)
-Wrote Ships, Secrets, and Survivors for NaNo
-Went to the Ark Encounter with a dear friend
-I made a meme for about our repair business

-Found out Bree has navicular and it's incurable and he will only get worse until he's completely unridable
-Haven't heard back on my pitches at Realm Makers
-A friend had to put her old first horse that taught me everything horse down and she's been taking it really hard
-My siblings are growing up and they're not supposed to???
-We still do not have a pastor for our congregation (our original pastor retired a few years back)
-Saw a harp for sale on Craiglist in the area and should have snatched it up but now it's gone and I have regrets

2019 Goals

Read 100 Books And yes I did reach this goal (yay). I read a total of 111 books, so that's cool. One was a Calvin and Hobbes comic book, though.

Pitch Words of Gold Yes!! Twice! I also submitted it to a third place, but so far, I have yet to hear back from anyone.

Go to Another Writer's Conference YES REALM MAKERSSSSS!!! I might have gone to Write2Ignite as well, but I went to a Ride and Tie race instead.

NaNoWriMo So this was a goal because at the beginning of 2019 I was editing everything and had no idea what I was going to write. Then Sarah told me I could just finish off the book we were writing together, and so then I had no idea if we even had 50K left to write in the book...but yes I reached 50K, and the book still ended up being around 80K.

Run Another Ultra Technically, no, I did not run another Ultra. Work was busy and I simply wasn't running enough (not that that hasn't stopped me before). I went to the site of the race I wanted to run, and was considering signing up and just running and speed-walking my way to the finish line, but I decided to make the wise choice and not do it. But I volunteered for the race instead and helped, and that was really fun.

Compete with Bree in a Ride and Tie I did two races with Bree this year. One in May: a ten miler on a rainy day. We were the only ones doing the short distance, and then 3 teams did the long distance. So a good one to start with. The other was in September: another ten miler, but at a huge race. And we got DQd for intermittent lameness, after which I took Bree home and to the vet and found out about his navicular...but yes, we did race. :)

Go Through the M'Cheyne Reading Plan YES! This was my first time to ever successfully complete the plan, so I'm pretty excited about that.

Drive Pepper More Often Well, I drove him once. Which is more than I can say for other years. And he got driven for a fairly long time - not just up the driveway and back, so that's nice. So yes, we did reach this goal.


Anyways, I'd like to have another of those photo dumps and just share a few things. And I hope y'all have a lovely start to your 2020.

January - Found out how to get all three horses some exercise at the same time, lol

February - The 2019 Winter Games were held!!

March - Airsoft game played in 30 degree freezing rain.

April - Surprised Dad for his birthday with a huge family camping trip.

May - Sarah and I raced Bree in his first Ride and Tie race.

June - Trip to Canada for Presbytery.

July - Realm Makers Writing Conference!!

August - Visited the Ark Encounter with a dear friend from Canada, crossing that off her bucket list. :)

September - Took the horses to the county fair.

October - Volunteered at the local Ultra Marathon race.

November - The ice skating rink opens for the season!

December - Fun group ride.
Hope y'all had a lovely 2019...and let the fun of 2020 begin!!