How Do You Solve a Problem Like a First Draft?

Stop me if you’ve heard this story before.

You’ve reached the “end” of your manuscript’s first draft. You look back over your shoulder at the smoldering wreckage of your plot, malformed narratives writhing about in a primordial soup of creativity. It’s a formless maelstrom of scenes and moments, but somewhere in all the chaos you can see the pieces for a coherent story coming together.

You smile wistfully, ready to take hold of those few shimmering pieces of plot stability and staring pulling this thing together.

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Now you’re ready to bring order to this book!

That’s about where I am right now, sifting through the first draft of my latest manuscript, THE BREWMANCER. I’m trying to find the best pieces of plot foundation to start laying down and building up the brick and mortar, wood and plaster to make a structurally sound story.

I don’t know about all of you, but I’m a pantser when I write. I basically just go with a barebones outline of the major plot points and kinda fill it in from there. That tactic, for me at least, leads to somewhat barebones first drafts that need to be beefed up in future drafts. For THE BREWMANCER, I envision the final product being about 90,000 words, and the first draft ended up at about 80,000.

That’s quite a bit more beef.

In the first draft, I did leave some scenes and chapters completely unwritten, either because they required some significant research or were difficult to write for some other reason. Fight scenes are tough for me, so on the first go I just sketch out a quick blow-by-blow of how the fight would go, then fill in the details later. A bunch of characters, places and fantastical things were left with just placeholder names, too.

Details.

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In first drafts, I usually keep details to a minimum. Details of what things looks like, details of what the characters are doing. I pretty much lay down basic settings and actions to move the plot along. I consider dialogue one of my strong points, so I try to get most of that stuff written in the first draft. I do worry too much of the plot is conveyed through dialogue, so I’ll pare some of the back in subsequent drafts and replace it with more descriptions or backstory. At the same time, I try to keep the info dumps to a minimum in each draft, but sometimes in the second or third drafts I’ll feel pressured to hit the final word count, go overboard with with backstory.

So basically first draft with too little stuff, second and third drafts with too much stuff.

The hope is to find that special sweet spot in drafts four and five.

I like to keep my drafts under five before sending it off to beta readers, and then a draft or two will come of out that feedback.

I feel like this is a strange way to draft, most people have a large and unwieldy first drafts, then pare it back – cutting scenes, side plot, or even full character POVs (I’ve done that once and it was BRUTAL)  But I’ve done my first drafts this way for my last couple of manuscripts to reasonable success. Like I said, I have the fear when I’m finished with one of these skeleton drafts I won’t be able to find enough words to get to the optimal word count, but I usually end up getting there without any superfluous plot additions and weird tangents.

Part of the reason I opt for the small structural first draft is because my first manuscript was so bloated. 180,000 words that wasn’t even really a complete story, even with that many words. I also edited each chapter as I finished it, which is something I’ll never do again. Cutting that book back by 60,000 words and still having it a gigantic mess, trying to make that first book into something remotely publishable took months just wasn’t worth it. It was good lesson because I obviously didn’t know what the hell I was doing when writing that first draft, but it also put the fear of overdrafting into me.

Now, I still have have a bunch of work to do after a first draft, but by adding in stuff I skipped over, I still feel like I’m making progress, instead of going backward. Sure, I’ll end up cutting a bunch of scenes and subplots and I’ve already had to rewrite the first few chapters because they no longer match up with the direction the story ultimately took, but it feels like progress.

It’s going to be another few more months of editing, but I think I’m in a good place with it right now.

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Welp. Better get back to work.

But before I go – how do all of you create your first drafts? Over or under draft? Edit as you go? Let me know!

 

Crutch words – Self editing

Crutch words, or phrases, plague all writers. It doesn’t matter how many books you write, you will always have words or phrases you abuse.The key to being a good writer is not being perfect, but recognizing your weaknesses and trying to fix them. And always remember, that is what editing is for.

I have published some 20+ titles between my two names and I’m still falling into the trap of crutches, so, I thought I would share a few with you. Maybe you’ll recognize some of these issues in your own writing and they’ll help.

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There are a couple that new writers will always fall into. One that’s very popular with beginner writers is having your characters releasing breaths they didn’t know they were holding. Yeah, we all hold our breath in a tense moment but it’s amazing how many fictional characters aren’t aware they’re doing it. I mean, you’d think a few would faint once in a while. An easy fix? “I released the breath I was holding.” Boom. No need to pretend you didn’t know that you weren’t breathing.

Another common crutch for new writers is “suddenly.” Suddenly often becomes redundant. “She suddenly screamed.” Right, as opposed to gradually screaming? “He suddenly burst into the room.” When is bursting ever not sudden? See how you can eliminate the word without hurting the action? Slice and dice that word from your MS.

Now, here are a few from my current WIP that I, and a few of my writing friends, all admit to using.

  • Just.

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This is an actual note from my editor after she line-edited this book. 350+ uses of “just”?! DUDE. The book isn’t even 350 pages in Word. Let’s just put one here, and just there. Okay, just one more. No, not just one more because I just need another. BAH! You pretty much never need this damn word. Slice and dice!

  • Stating the obvious, especially when describing actions.

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Yes, my character crumpled the paper in her hand. As opposed to crumpling it in her feet? You’ll find yourself “nodding heads” or “waving hands”. We know how the body works and how actions work. You can just nod. Or just wave. Look for these, again, it’s being redundant with action.

  • Still and not being concise.

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Here is a double-whammy edit. “Still” is another one of those “just” words. You very often don’t need it. See how the sentence works as well as it does with or without “still” in there? And the end of the sentence, see my editor’s change? Obviously they both work, but you do need to be aware of the economy of words, especially when writing an action scene. If you’re building tension you want to make sure you’re not dragging things out.

  • Adverbs.

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New or old-hat, we all love adverbs. Again, they are almost never helpful. Yes, there are exceptions to the rule, but if you have an abundance of adverbs you’ll need to take a critical eye to them and really decide which ones help and which ones are fluff. This one? Quickly? It’s fluff.

  • That.

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Oh, that. Just, still, that. That is a tough word because we do need it a lot in the English language but you’d be amazed how often we use it. When you’re editing, be mindful of “that”. If you’re not sure if you should slice and dice, read the sentence out loud, does it work with or without “that”? Then delete.

There are so many more crutches we need to be aware of, but sometimes they’re very specific to the writer. One that was mentioned to me was relying on metaphors. I remember the first time I wrote “his cheekbones were so sharp, I could cut my wrists on them.” Oof, I loved that line. I loved it so much I used it three or four more times in different books with different characters. Yep. Crutch. If you use the same metaphor more than once that first awesome impact gets muddied and loses its impact. Don’t fall victim to this.

Don’t fall victim to any of these!

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Have you come to recognize your crutches? Share them in the comments, you might just help out your fellow writers who are still looking for crutches to kill like ants on the page.

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Revising, editing, and all the rough drafts.

As I sit down to work on yet another rough draft, I thought it might be interesting to read about how I revise and edit a new book. Because I also offer manuscript critique services, I see a lot of books before they’re ready from new writers. It’s always hard to know when a book is done and it’s time to let it go out into the world and flourish or die by its own merit, but you do need to spend a significant amount of time on it before that happens.

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First, I outline the story. I like to do this long hand, with a pen and a legal pad. I use the longer legal pads and, usually, one page = one chapter. It’s lame and mundane and in a bullet point list, just so I know what’s happening and how in each chapter. The magic happens when I’m actually writing. When I was a new writer, I didn’t outline because I lost the urgency to tell the story, so if you’re not an outliner, don’t freak out; everyone is different and things change from book to book.

Once the outline is done, I fast draft the book. This means I write daily, usually taking 1-2 days off a week so I don’t burn out, until it’s done. There are some days where I might just get 500 words or 1,000 words, but my goal is 2-4k words a day. But, again, every book is different. As long as I make some progress, I’m happy.

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Then, when that first draft is done, I back up my work in 2-3 different places. I like to email myself the document every day so I don’t ever lose any work. But when I finish, I email myself again the completed document. I also save it to a memory stick. This way, if something happens to my computer, my book is safely stored in two places that can’t also be damaged by whatever killed my computer. When I was writing my fourth book, Fire, my hard-drive crashed and I lost about 20k words because I wasn’t in the habit of emailing myself on the daily, just at the end of a draft. It was devastating. Never again!

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Then I walk away. I close the file on the computer and I don’t look at it again for at least a week, sometimes as much as six months. Again, it depends on the book (and deadlines). But I get away from it and do other things. I clean the house, I read other people’s books, I relax. I do things that have nothing to do with the book I was writing. I may even start writing (and finish) another book before I ever come back to it. There’s a few reasons for this but the main reason is so that I can come back to it with fresh eyes.

You just spent a couple of months to the better part of a year focused on this one story, it’s been loud in your head, the characters alive and and controlling. If you come back too soon, you’ll remember everything and you won’t see mistakes, you won’t find the plot holes, you won’t pick up on the weaknesses or the thin characters. You need to read your rough draft as though you weren’t the one who wrote it.

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I like to print out a copy of the MS to go over it the first time. This way I’m not working on it in the same medium that I wrote it. I am familiar with it on the computer screen, so my eyes and mind might trick me into reading it the way I wanted it to be, not the way it is. By printing it, it becomes a new book and I can take a bright red pen to it and make corrections and notes to transcribe back on the computer. That’s the second draft.

Now, depending on the book, this is the right time to give it to beta readers to go over. I like to have at least two readers, but three is ideal. You want readers who will give it back to you in 2-4 weeks. This gives you another break away from the book, but also ensures your readers focus on your book so they don’t forget what they read in the first half because they took so long to finish it.

Wait to make any changes to your MS until you hear back from all betas. This gives you the chance to see if critiques are just personal preference or if you really missed something because they all mentioned the same thing(s).

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Now I go over the book again, this time on the computer, comparing beta notes, seeing if I agree or not. If I agree with a change, I have to make sure I thread it through the whole book. That’s the third draft.

Now I put it on a tablet to read it as an ebook. You may need another break or you may be ready to just dive in. So, again, I’m reading it in a different medium and more like any reader who bought it would read it. I use the highlight and note function to keep track of issues and changes I want to make. Once I make those changes, I’ve got a fourth draft.

Only on the 3rd or 4th draft does my editor get the book. Because I self-publish, I pay my editor for her services, so why in the world would I send her a book before it’s ready? I wouldn’t, and neither should you. I often get MSs that are not ready and people are paying me a fee to go over the book and 90% of the time, most of my notes could have been caught by the author or by a beta reader to be addressed for free.

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Once I get my MS back from my editor and implement the line-edits and content-edits, I am up to the fifth draft. Guess what? It goes back for a proof-reader to comb to make sure we didn’t miss any tiny mistakes.

So, in the end, I’m publishing the 5th or 6th draft. I don’t always use beta readers because sometimes I’m up to the 5th, 6th, or 7th book in a series and I can’t expect friends to do that much work for me. But the first book in a series? A stand alone? A trilogy? Yes, I use beta readers for all of those.

You will get to the point where you start to hate your book because you’ve read it so many times, but that’s what it takes to polish it, to develop those characters, to make the plot compelling. This is the work that goes into a book. Getting that first draft is the easy part, making it a book is where the hard work really is.

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Writing is re-writing. This is the rule you should be living by.

And, speaking of working on a new, revised, and edited book, I just published one this week! If you’re a fan of witches and magic set in modern day, might I recommend my Matilda Kavangh Novels series. I just published the seventh book!

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Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl… And Writers!

What a fortuitous occasion!

Not only do I have a post on the ‘ol Spellbound Scribes today and also a new episode of our podcast is dropping today as well! This week on the Pod fellow Scribe Kristin McFarland and I discuss Season One of Steven Universe, and let me tell you, that show is a DELIGHT and we had a DELIGHTFUL time talking about it. So, I thought today I would discuss three lessons of Steven Universe that can be applied to writing as well.

CROSS PROMOTION Y’ALL

Also, there’s probably some minor spoilers for Steven Universe throughout this post in case you’re concerned about that sort of thing.

LESSON THE FIRST – TEAMWORK WORKS!

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The main characters of Steven Universe are the eponymous Steven and his protectors / matriarchal figures the Crystal Gems – Amethyst, Garnet and Pearl. In each episode they’re beset by some terrible trouble or perilous problem that must be defeated or solved. And of course, those trials cannot be solved without the power of teamwork! The Crystal Gems can even fuse together to become bigger and more powerful version of themselves.

What does this have to do with writing? I’ve written posts in the past about the importance of beta readers you can trust and friends in the community that will pick you up when things go wrong. Your friends in the Writing Community are your Crystal Gems, ready to defend you when the chips are down. Your beta readers are your fusion – with all the skills and life experiences of the people you’ve entrusted combined in your manuscript. The merging of their imput will make your book stronger than before. And if you’re me, it won’t be bigger like the Fusion Gems because Shauna will have slashed the crap out of it with the Red Pen of Doom.

LESSON THE SECOND – BE INCLUSIVE!

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Steven Universe has some of the best queer representation of any show on TV, animated or otherwise. Especially important and awesome because even though there’s a lot in in-jokes old people like me will appreciate, it’s made mostly for kids. The show explores gender roles, breaks down the boundaries of gender binary and celebrates general queerness in a way that most “adult” shows can’t or won’t.

We should strive to write inclusively as well. I’ve tried to write diverse characters that are “outside of my lane” with varying degrees of success. I messed up on a whole bunch of things in OVERDARK, that I luckily had great beta readers to help point out. I fixed them the best I could. But I think it’s still important to try. The characters in our book worlds, even the fantastical ones, should be reflective of reality.  Everyone should have the opportunity to see themselves as the hero of the story. This goes back to the first Lesson. Do you best and hopefully your friend and beta readers will call you out on problematic stuff they find. Reach out to Sensitivity Readers too. Teamwork can go a long way to snuff out harmful and hurtful representation.

LESSON THE THIRD – NEVER GIVE UP!

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By the end of the first season, Steven and the Crystal Gems face seemingly insurmountable odds. Captured and standing off against enemies more powerful than they are, all looks lost and still they refuse to back down. There’s an amazing song called “Stronger Than You” that plays during the climactic fight scene which is all about the strength of bonds of love and friendship and together we can overcome anything. Even against the most threatening of foes, Steven and the Gems won’t give up as long as they have each other.   

I’ve beat this drum in almost every post on this blog.

Writing is hard.

Publishing is brutal.

Rejection is unrelenting.

But you shouldn’t give up! There’s been days that I’ve been hammered with rejections or failed to write a single word with any coherence or value and just wanted to hang it up. Without the support and inspiration of friends in the writing community, I probably would have.

The challenge of the publishing industry might not be quite as dire as invading Gem warriors from another world, but to a writer, especially one at the beginning of their career, they can be just as intimidating. Luckily, like Steven and the Crystal Gems, we have strong and supportive community to stand with us when we need them. 

Thanks for reading as always, friends. Do give Steven Universe a look if you have a chance, it’s a wonderful little show with a great message and representation.

I’m On To The Next One, On To The Next One

What’s next?

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That’s the question writers always have rattling around in their heads, isn’t it? Sometimes you might have half a dozen new plot ideas floating around in your brain soup and sometimes the ol’ skull bowl will have been drained bone dry. It’ll fill up again eventually, though. The stream of ideas is never truly dammed up.

One thing is a constant in the life of the diligent writer (0r any creative pursuit, really) – regardless of where you are in your current project, there’s always going to be a Next Thing. There will always be the need to make the Next Thing.

I tend to be someone who has too many Plot Bunnies frolicking through my Mind Fields at any given moment. If you follow me on Twitter, you probably already know that I run quite a bit. In the Not Winter months, I’ll log about 10-20 miles over the course of the week. The portion of that running time not spent on keeping myself from collapsing into a wheezing heap is devoted to plotting stuff. Plotting whatever my current WIP is, but also thinking ahead to what the Next Thing is going to be. A lot of time out on the open road has turned into wild Plot Bunnies.

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But now it’s decision time. My YA Superhero manuscript, THE MANY FOES OF AURORA OVERDARK is done and it’s being queried right now (and eternal thanks to a number of my fellow Scribes for their invaluable input into the final product). It’s time to start the Next Thing. I had three ideas I was kicking around for the OVERDARK’s successor:

Weird Western with demons and this kinda Hellfire-punk technology and stuff. The Dark Tower is one of my favorite book series, so I’ve always wanted to try my hand at writing a western-themed story (really hope they don’t butcher the movie, btw).

Lady Heroes of the Multiverse – basically female trope heroes joined up to save the Universe. Multiverse hopping is a thing that’s done a lot in comics, and by golly do I love my comics. Also, I recently read Michael Underwood’s first GENRENAUTS book and that kinda got me excited to do a multiverse team thing.

Those two came up from the usual On-The-Run-Brain-Bubbling.

The third one has a bit of a story. If you’ve listened to fellow Scribe Kristin McFarland and I’s podcast The Young Podawans, you’ll know that we discuss What We’re Drinking at the beginning of each episode. One week I had a beer called the Ginga Ninja and on the side of the can was a mini story about The Brewmaster and his Ninja Wife. I said to Kristin on that episode “I want to write this book.”

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And I think I’m going to next. I’ve got a little Brexit inspired plot starting to brew (lol) around the Brewmaster and his probably not Ninja, but some kind of soldier wife and also his husband who’s also integral to their beer making / soldiery business.

So what’s the point of this post besides “look at these ideas I have and and have to pick one waaaaaah”? It’s interesting where we get our ideas from. The impetus for some of my previous books were a D&D campaign from high school, a ghost girl from a comic book, and now a story on the side of a beer can.

And not just that inspiration can come from anywhere, but that it can come at any time. Some people do their greatest thinking in the shower. Like I said before, I do a lot for my plot brainstorming during my runs, but I also have a 30 minute or so commute to and from work everyday and I find that to be a good time to mull over new ideas as well.

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I think it’s vitally important for writers to carve out not only writing time, but thinking / plotting time. The ideas for the Next Thing need a place to be cultivated, whether they’ve come from the random mundanities of everyday life, plumbed from a lifetime of stories we’ve consume, or a little bit of both.

So, I guess I’ll leave this post with a question:

When and where does everyone else do their plotting and idea brewing? We all have so many different commitments and needs pulling us away from our stories, and I’d really love  to know how people find the time in their lives and keep the stream of ideas still flowing.

 

Beta Readers Are Your Alpha Support System

Pretty much all my posts on the ol’ Spellbound Scribes have been about my writing journey or about what it means (for me at least) to be a writer. I’ve talked in the past about the importance of a good support group to help you along in the hard times (because good lord will there be a whole bunch of hard times)

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Today I want to talk about one particular support group, probably the most important of all – Beta Readers and Critique Partners.

I’m at the point in my current manuscript – THE MANY FOES OF AURORA OVERDARK – where I’ve sent it out to beta readers and am eagerly (fearfully?) awaiting their feedback. A few have given me some initial thoughts (which have been very positive and very affirming) and one has returned a full edit back to me (also super amazing – thanks Shauna!)

I’ve seen websites or Twitter mentions about matching up complete strangers as CPs and BRs and that idea has always made me kinda nervous. A stranger reading any early draft of my manuscript? How about no? I would have a hard time sending my work to someone I don’t know – mostly out of fear they would just hammer the hell out it, because I’m a stranger to them too, so why should they care? I’d generally prefer to send it to someone I already have a relationship with – that I trust – but also know will be honest with me. Trust and honesty are the most important part of the CP/BR relationship. 

Sometimes your stuff sucks.

You need to know if your stuff sucks.

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A good CP/BR will tell you if your stuff sucks and how to make it better, not just trash it without reason. Constructive criticism is the greatest gift your read can provide. When I was still trying to find readers, I thought I could trust and build a relationship with, I sent my first manuscript to someone I was somewhat friendly with on Twitter. About a month later she sent it back. She only read the first couple pages and tore them apart, littering them with pedantic and nitpick comments. Nothing constructive. Nothing of value.

That experience put me off to sending my work to a relative stranger. That hurt. I didn’t want to experience something like that again. Putting your stuff out there is terrifying, even to people you know and trust. But you have to. You have to be ready for them to tell you it’s not great. The first time I got beta feedback I was upset with a lot of the comments. I loved my book and thought it was perfect. I was wrong and after that initial sting of criticism, I realized that I was wrong and there was a lot I needed to fix. You can’t take negative feedback personally. Which is hard, because there is so much of YOU in that manuscript. But if you trust your CP/BR, you’ll know that pain is ultimately for your and your story’s betterment.

Over the years, I realized I needed to get over my fear of having strangers read my work. Sending my second manuscript in for Pitch Wars was a big step. The biggest. Getting into the contest was basically having your manuscript sent to CP who was a complete stranger (CS?). It was a pretty terrifying proposition, but it was probably the best chance I’ve taken with my writing. Now I have another amazing beta reader in my PW (lot of acronyms in this post, huh?) mentor Hayley! She gave some of the best feedback I’ve every received and completely changed the way I approach writing novels. It would have never happened if I held onto that fear.

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This post has been kinda all over the place (as I feel like mine sometimes can be) but I guess the summation is you need people you trust and know will be honest with your work. That person might be someone you’ve known for years, but it also doesn’t hurt to try out your stuff on a complete stranger – who knows, maybe that person will be someone you can always trust in the future to give you the feedback you need.

As an aside, I feel weird sometimes deciding whether I should call the folks I send my work to “beat readers” or “critique partners”. CPs have a more serious feeling, like there’s some kind of reciprocal blood bond or something between you and the reader. BR feels more casual, but I’ve read the works of some of my beta readers and some not. What do you all think? 

What your experience with BRs/CPs, friends? How did you meet them? Nightmare experiences? Let me know!

Better late than never: A few writing/writer tips

So, as you can see, I’m posting a bit late today. Every once in a while the Spellbound Scribe of the week will forget their turn to post and we scramble to catch up. This week was my turn to post and to forget. So here I am, desperate to get this up today!

Last night, when I was falling asleep, I realized I’d forgotten to write up my post for today. I laid there and tried to think of something to write that wasn’t just self-promotion, because those can get a little boring (don’t worry, there’s some self-promotion at the end, don’t want to disappoint!). And I came up with a great idea! I even thought of the opening paragraph! Huzzah! I’ll wake up in the morning and write it straight away! I thought.

But, of course, because I didn’t write the idea down, I forgot it.

So that leads me to a new idea for today’s post. Tips for writing/writers.

1. Write your shit down. This seems like an obvious one, I know, but we all need reminding. We all think “eh, I’ll remember.” Or, “No, this is such a good idea there is no way I’m going to forget it.” You know what? Maybe. But what if you don’t? What if you don’t remember that perfect fix for that plot hole? What if you don’t remember that awesome name for a character and you end up with calling him Bob? What if you’re already late with a blog post and, because you thought of an idea as you were falling asleep, you’ll forget it? My phone charges on my nightstand, I could have easily opened the note app and jotted down my idea. I have a notepad there too. But I didn’t. Don’t assume you’ll remember. Write your shit down.

2. Back up your work in multiple places, continuously, as you write. Tuesday I went to open a manuscript doc that I finished back in September to finally start editing the rough draft, but when I did, only half the doc would open. The MS is just over 75k words, but for some reason only 39k would load. Half. Half the book wouldn’t load. I closed and reopened, closed and reopened. But still, just 39k words. Then I checked the properties and saw, yes, the file was just 39k words. Half my book was gone.

Luckily, when I’m writing a book, I will email myself every day the latest version. Sometimes I’ll only email myself every new 5k words, or 10k, but more often than not, I’ll email myself every day even if it was just a new 1k words. So I was able to go into my email and find “Completed First Draft of XXXX”. Crisis averted. I do also have an external flash drive where I save all of my completed drafts, but usually just the finals, not the roughs. I like email for multiple copies because of the unlimited space. Don’t depend on your computer or Dropbox (I’ve known friends who’ve depended solely on Dropbox to find that the only version saved in there was a corrupted one. Not cool.). And, with email, if your computer crashes, or your external hard drive does, you can log on to any computer, open your email, and bam! You’re back in business.

3. When editing, read your MS in different formats. Often, writers are staring at the same computer screen for months, writing their books. So, you’re used to seeing your MS this way. It is an easy way to miss things because your mind sees it the way it’s supposed to be. Open your doc on a tablet or ereader, read it the way you imagine thousands of people one day will, use the highlight and note functions to keep track of mistakes or edits. Print out your doc and go old school with a red pen – I do this. If you can’t do these thing, enable the speech option in Word and have your computer read the story to you. Yes, it’s a bit robotic, but you’ll hear mistakes. Change it up so you can be the best self-editor you can be.

4. Don’t only self-edit. It is so terrifying when you’re a new writer (yeah, okay, not just when you’re new) to ask people to read your work and give you feedback, but it is vital to becoming a better writer. You don’t have to take the notes you get, but hearing reactions from outsiders really helps. An honest beta reader/critique partner will help you make your work stronger. And they might even catch some mistakes you missed. Multiple sets of eyes are good. And you can build your own critique group, which helps with morale and getting through the tough times of writing. If you don’t have anyone who can or will do this for you, there are resources out there, look for them. I, for example, offer professional critique services. *cough*

5. Give yourself a break. Notice earlier I said I was just starting to edit the rough draft of a book I finished in September? It’s now March. When you finish a project, whether it’s the rough draft or the final, take time off. We have to replenish our wells of creativity, collect the spoons we’ve given out, we need time for ourselves. Go read someone else’s book for fun. Take a day trip somewhere. Sleep in. Binge watch something on Netflix. Go to a museum and see some beautiful art that isn’t the written word. You can’t be creative day in and day out without taking a break. This, I think, is what leads to writer’s block. Not a lack of ability or that your story is bad, but that your mind needs a break and replenishment. Don’t finish a rough draft one day and then two days later think you’ve had enough time to come back to it and start editing (no I did not take five months off from writing, but I did leave that particular book alone because I knew I needed a lot of time away from it. I worked on other projects in the meantime). Yes, sometimes, you can finish one book and are still able and ready to write something new. Go for it, if you think you can, but remember, it’s okay to take time to play.

(Now for that shameless self-promo. Just wanted to let everyone know that I’ve revamped my Patreon account and am actively working on it. I hope, if you’re a reader/fan of mine, you might check it out. For $3 or more a month, you’ll get access to exclusive posts of fiction and rewards depending on your level. I’m hoping to make it worth everyone’s while, so please have a look.)