First Drafting Basics - Changes

Stuff's going to change. So be prepared.

*cues that stupid goat song from Hoodwinked*

My rule #1 for writing a draft is don't stop don't stop don't stop.

Change a name? Don't bother going back, just change it in edits and write with the new name.

Change the plot? Ditto.

I used to get stuck in the endless spiral of "rewriting the first two chapters over and over and over and over" so I can't let myself go back.

So what do you do?

Easy. Create an additional document or get a notepad or if you've got a fancy word processor like Scrivener use one of its neat features.

Now, whenever you're knee-deep in a draft and discover something needs to change, you can just open that doc or notebook and scribble it down as a reminder. Then keep writing as if the changes were put into place. Everything previously written can be changed later.

If you jump to Google to search something, you could easily get sucked into Pinterest or YouTube or something. So also create a list of things to look up after the draft is finished.

This is a good plan - to a point.

I'll be honest. There are some things you do need to stop and research. And sometimes you really do have to completely trash a draft and start over at the beginning.

But part of finishing a draft is not getting sucked into endless re-writes of a scene or (even worse) end up distracted on the internet without writing a thing.

And there you have it.

A few quick tips to starting your first draft. Helpful? Anyone else write this way? Tried anything like this? Prefer something better! Let's talk first drafts!

First Drafting Basics - Character Journaling

So we've pretty much gone over the basics, but there are still a few things I want to talk about.

Technically, you could start writing that new story now. You got the spark, you let that spark grow and solidify, and you've battered out what needs to happen with that super fun synopsis.

But there's one more thing I like to do: character journaling.

Or something akin to that, anyway. *shrugs*

I looooooove filling out character charts. Or any kind of form (yeah, I do enjoy doing the taxes, haha) where I just throw answers in blank fields.

But I'm going to be honest, once I start writing that rough draft, I probably look at those charts like...once? And not because I've memorized everything about the characters (far from it), but when I start writing...I don't care what the MC's favorite food is or favorite childhood memory.

So what I do is simple:

-Give them a name and a vague age (I haaaaaate pin-pointing ages, and let's be honest, I don't know the ages of most of my characters)
-Maybe find a picture on Pinterest (I don't know the eye color of characters either, though I do usually know hair color)
-Jot down what they want
-Jot down what they fear
-Anything about their history that I know

And then I write a page of two in their POV (even if they're not a POV character in the draft). I just want to see how they think about things and how they view the world. This not only gives me a chance to know the character and their voice, but I can even do a little worldbuilding.

For The Red War, I wrote the same scene from 5 POVs: the royal parade. There was Marywyn, watching it for the first time, falling in love with all the colors and finery. There was Princess Connaven, wishing everyone would stop staring at her and trying to act like her slippers didn't pinch. There was Duren, totally not even noticing what was going on. Jaran, supposed to be guarding, but loving every minute of the excitement. And Wisdom, deep in a book and missing out on the entire thing.

Character sheets are important, especially for beginning writers. They help us get the important information (fears, weaknesses, descriptions, etc) that we need for our characters.

But I think too much time can be spent filling them out. And then you still have to figure out the character voice once you actually start writing.

Character journaling does both at once. :)

There you have it! Next week should wrap up this little mini-series. Hope you've been enjoying it.

First Drafting Basics - The Synopsis

I'm going to be honest: I absolutely love having a synopsis. So please pardon the lengthy post, haha.

The first time I used one as writing prep, I wasn't even intending to write a Synopsis (probably didn't even know the word, haha).

I had wrapped up the Stars of Darkness Saga and grabbed my next idea that had been sitting and waiting. By now, this idea had grown from a vague "use these old RPG characters and retell an obscure fairy-tale" to a conglomeration of random characters, scene ideas, dreams that I thought would be interesting to write, and a few fairy tales I liked.

Because I was sorting through so many ideas, I started typing out what I knew was going to happen. Then, for fun, I broke it into 3 paragraphs for the beginning, middle, and ending of the book. And, ta-da, my first synopsis was born.

After doing some brief character journaling (which I will talk about later), I dove into the draft. The rough outline-of-a-synopsis helped me keep the book moving in the direction it needed to go, but the continuing-the-whole story aspect gave me room to wing a good bit and just enjoy creating and exploring the story.

And yeah, writing with a synopsis as your chief guide may not work for everyone, but there's an added bonus to making one:

I started doing this back in 2015 with a WIP titled Bards and Bravery: Words of Gold. Fast-forward to 2019, when I'm getting ready to pitch this book (now renamed The Red War: Words of Bravery). One of the things I needed was to write a synopsis.

*snaps fingers*

Already done.

Okay, so I needed to change some things, since the book had been through a lot of changes since writing that 3 paragraph synopsis in 2015. But you get my point.

You have to write a synopsis eventually.

No need to make it super long and detailed. Just add in what you know. The synopsis for the first book in my trilogy was 521 words. If you want to check it out, I have it on this post, complete with sarcastic commentary.

The synopsis for the third book was waaaaaaaay long. An epic 5,033 words (7 pages) of material jotted down. Because there was a space of three or so years between the first writing of book one and the first writing of book three, I had kinda complied everything that needed to happen.

But once you've made your can start writing (though I'd advise checking out the last two steps first). Or maybe, if you prefer doing more prep, you can go ahead and start doing your character sheets, plot arcs, chapter outlines, all that fun stuff.

Anyways, if you're keeping All Important Steps to Writing a First Draft are (so far):

-Get the idea
-Let the idea sit
-Write a synopsis
-Character journaling (coming up)
-Write the thing (also coming up)

First Drafting Basics - Time

People talk about the importance of time away from your draft once you've completed it, but not enough is said about taking time away from your initial idea.

At first, it doesn't make sense. Why jot down that idea and just leave it? Why not jump on it while you're bursting at the seams to start writing?

Well, first off, you're probably already in the middle of your current WIP, right? You've set a goal to get it drafted or edited or whatever. And working on this new idea means you've got to put the original plan on hold.

Secondly, I've found that the initial excitement doesn't last long. Do you know how many books I've started and never made it past the first chapter? Some never even got a page in. Yes, some made it halfway and a few even got finished, but generally writing after getting that spark ends in failure.

If I let the idea sit while I finish my current WIP, I'll often come back and find that I'm less passionate about it. The spark died and never got past the one-sentence idea. I might still like the "this or that happens" idea, but I still don't have characters, story world, scenes, anything else to add to the original thought.

However, sometimes I put that little idea down in a notebook. I let it sit for a while. Then a character idea comes, and I add that. A scene pops into my head. I'm still focusing on my current WIP, but in my down time (maybe driving to work, or fixing fence lines) I'm mulling over that idea. A few weeks, a month, 2 months, however long later, I've only gotten more excited about the idea and have characters, a plot, even scenes figured out. The idea has grown into a full story, and I haven't technically started working on it yet.

For the past couple books I've written, I got the ideas back a long time before I even started my synopsis (more on that next week). By the time I finished the WIPs ahead of them, I already knew I was passionate about the ideas because they had grown instead of died.

When I finally reach my goals with my current WIPs and am ready to work on a new story, I have a few ideas that have been sitting around.

One has characters, a bit of a story world, the main plot, and even a few scenes already jotted down. It even has a Pinterest board with a few pins I tossed in while looking for things for different WIPs.

Another idea has less additions, but is slowly growing.

There's another idea that is still the same two sentences (plus a title, which is cool). It hasn't grown at all. I'd still like to write it someday, but still have nothing beyond a vague plot. Maybe in few years it'll have grown to where I feel ready to write it, but not now.

So please, do yourselves a favor: save the idea for later. Finish your current WIP. Tackle this new idea once it's had time to sit and simmer and grow.

Note: If I have a scene already figured out, I do take the time to jot it down, whether it's two paragraphs or two pages. I don't want to forget anything about this new idea, even if I'm not going to begin writing it instantly.

January Wrap-Up

Um, hello, it's February already?? And we all know Feb's gonna go by even faster...

Which, honestly, I'm not going to complain about because I absolutely detest winter and would rather hurry on up and get to spring and summer as fast as I can.

Not that I have anything against winter, it's my area of NC, we hardly ever get snow, but we still get cold temps and rain, so everything just turns to mud. And it's mud everywhere. And cold rain.

So my winter is spent trudging through not-quite-frozen mud and puddles and some times it's warm and sunny but the mud is still there and other times it's just rain rain rain.

And did I mention I have like, 15 minutes of light between when I get home from work and when it gets dark, which is basically enough time to check on all the animals and make sure they have food and water.

*laughs* no, no, I'm fine, really *breaks down into tears* someone please save me and bring summer along already

Ahem. I did (somehow) manage to get some things done this month (yay).

Started off New Years Day with a big group ride. A friend rode Spirit out and then we switched and she rode Pepper back. We got some nice cantering in.

Ponies, draft horses, and everything in between! <3

Pepper being a lovely beastie for a young rider.
I started messing around with Campfire. Should have some reviews and tips and stuff in a post eventually, once I figure things out and finally decide if I like it or not. At the moment, I think I like it, but I just gotta figure things out.

I sold Bree, my little gray Quarter Horse. Went to a home where he'll be a buddy horse and lead grandkids around. The owner understands his navicular issue and will continue to care for him, so that's a nice load off my mind. (Also got to have dinner with Sarah and Joe after dropping Bree off, so that was nice.)

Me after bidding on and buying Bree at auction myself, March 17th, 2018.

Me dropping Bree off at his new home in SC, January 10, 2020.

Organized my laptop and got set up for this "Editing 2020" thing. All three The Red War books are in Scrivener and are set to be torn apart and pieced back together.

Re-read The Wingfeather Saga. Highly recommended series. And started on a re-read of The Blades of Acktar, which is my favorite series EVER.

Crashed the local Wal-Mart because we went to go bowling and discovered that a group had rented the entire building for the night. So, in a small town with no other entertainment choices...we just windowshopped for an evening.

Took an unintended hiatus from Bookstagramming. Like, life got busy and I just forgot to post for the first few weeks and then decided, eh, I'll just get back to it in February.

Did lots of hiking, which is always fun. The local state park just bought a bunch of land and will be creating more trails so even more places to hike will be coming up!

Got together with Sarah and Joe for some ice skating/book buying/world building time. If you live 2ish hours away, make the most of the time spent together, haha.

Don't go on a weekend - I've never seen so many people. Usually we have the rink to ourselves!

Anyways, that was my month. Looking forward to more fun coming this year!