Drafting, Week 5

Last week, I determined to create myself an inspirational playlist. I love the idea, but I love my critique partner Kate Sheeran Swed more, who shared the idea of continuing to write in silence if that makes me happy (it does) and creating a playlist to listen to throughout the day.

Here’s the thing I’ve truly learned over the past few weeks. I can try all kinds of exercises and techniques, but I’m still going to love to revise and not love to draft. Translating vibrant, life-like movies in my head onto paper never quite works and always disappoints me. That’s okay, because of the revision, but it doesn’t make the initial drafting any easier.

Snoopy writing

What I can do is keep at it and seek out constant bits of inspiration. I love the playlist for exactly that reason. It’s easy to stay with my characters and keep a scene fresh in my mind when the writing went well that morning and everything felt great. But when it was slow and every word took five minutes to bang out on the keyboard? That’s when some great tunes or pictures tacked up behind my work computer can come in handy.

I’ll be on a short blog hiatus for a few weeks! I’m moving, so I’m going to focus the next few weeks on packing and freaking out. The exciting news is that my new place will have a dedicated writing space! (We will name it “Office.”) I haven’t ever had an actual space (right now I don’t even have a desk), so this is pretty epic.


Drafting, Week 4

So, trying all these exercises and new techniques is pretty time consuming. Especially when you add in the time to reflect on what works and what doesn’t and whether I want to add them to my regular writing routine (and therefore practice them so I can become reasonably competent). Here’s what I love: I’ve learned some amazing new techniques to add to my bag of tricks, true. But more importantly, I’ve learned so much about my own style and what works best for me – how I work, what I need, what works, what doesn’t.

music cartoon

To that end, the addition last week of the close-your-eyes technique was a great success, and it got me thinking about visualization and inspirational cues. So many writers use playlists and photographs – all kinds of things to inspire them when they’re writing. I tend to write in silence, but if I’ve learned anything these past several weeks, it’s that I need to be open to trying new things to see if they might work for me. So this week’s project is to create a playlist for my current WIP. I’m starting small here (no Pinterest for me yet!), but I’m dipping a tentative toe into unchartered waters. I’m excited to get started!

Drafting, Week 3

writing essays

Last week, the drafting technique I wanted to master was the write-in-short-bursts plan. Well. As it turns out, this is not my strong suit. I shouldn’t be surprised, really (and nor should you, if you read last week’s post), since I’m a self-confessed stare-at-the-screen-until-it-comes-alive-and-writes-the-book-for-me (or until I give up that fantasy for the day) type of person. Nevertheless, I will not give in!

This week, I’ll continue to chip away at my stubborn nature and attempt to force myself to take breaks. I’ll also add in a new technique: closing my eyes. Do you do this? I actually do on occasion, and it makes a huge difference in how quickly a scene comes together. (Why don’t I do it more often? you ask. Great question.)

When I think about it and do, two things happen. First, I visualize the scene more clearly, so the writing flows more quickly and the scene comes together more easily. Second, I can’t see the page, so my internal editor is required to shut up. I literally can’t use the backspace key, so no time is spent staring at the page trying to figure out the exact right form of “look” or “walk” or some other word that will likely get cut when I chop ten thousand words in the first revision.

Drafting, Week 2


If you’ve been following the blog, you know that last week was my shift over from daily writing exercises into drafting mode. I wanted to write more, so I did the obvious thing: I scheduled more time to write. It worked, too! Actually, outside of the time itself (which, don’t get me wrong, is fantastic), having specific intervals of my day designated for writing makes a big difference. My brain recognizes the schedule now and dives right in, whereas before when I wrote at random hours, it took much longer to settle into the task.

I’ll grant you, I’m an organizer. I have several paper calendars and an electronic one (what? that’s normal). Still, I imagine having a regular writing time (or a couple, if you’re a full-time day-jobber like me) could be beneficial for most writers.

This week, the technique I’m adding to my bag o’ tricks is the write-in-short-bursts plan. This is pretty popular and well-known, but the idea seems pretty crazy to me. If, like me, you’re a sit-down-and-write-until-your-skull-cracks-open person, then you may have missed it too (or just think it’s weird). The basic premise is that you should take a lot of breaks. Like, write for 15-30 minutes, then walk around for 5 minutes. Rinse. Repeat. Healthy or whatever, but it’s a whole mentality change for me. Still, I’m looking forward to giving it a go. I’ve heard great things about it!

Drafting Experiment


Now that I’m back from the long holiday weekend, it’s time to start drafting! One of my personal challenges is that I’m an as-I-go-editor, so drafting is a slow process. You may think that means revision is faster, but not so. I make lots of plot, character, and conflict changes even before I send out the “first” draft to my beta readers, and once I get their critiques, there are other changes to make from there.

Though I’ve been trying (with limited success) for some time now, my goals during the next several weeks are to draft a lot and to teach myself to let go of that internal editor and draft faster. I don’t want to attack every technique at once, so I’ll build on them as I go, and of course I’ll share the techniques and my progress – more like once a week rather than the daily posts I’ve been doing recently. Most of the techniques are pretty basic and well-known, so not a lot of links with this series. Just me trying to put them into practice!

First up is pretty simple: create a writing schedule and stick to it. Off we go!

Plot Exercise 12: The Covetous Competition

Exercise 12: The Covetous Competition
From Kristina Bjoran (#5)

My Thoughts
For a romance, this is a particularly useful exercise to brainstorm your way into a great conflict. I had a great time with this one because there are so many fun directions to take it!

I finally decided to put my hero in competition with a secondary character, and of course while the competition is a sporting affair, the undertones are all about the heroine. It was great to write, but more importantly, I wouldn’t have thought to approach it this way if I hadn’t done these exercises.

And now they’re done! So what next? Drafting, of course! I’m an incredibly slow writer, so my next project will be to explore some techniques to let go of my edit-as-I-go approach and draft more quickly, and I’ll blog about it as I go. I hope you’ll join me when I get started after Labor Day!

Plot Exercise 11: The Avenger

Exercise 11: The Avenger
From Kristina Bjoran (#4)

My Thoughts
This exercise was a bit tougher for me. I had to do quite a bit of brainstorming to figure out which character to use and what kind of crime he/she could witness to start the chain of events. Once I figured something out, though, the results were definitely worth it.

I ended up working with my heroine and starting with a plot point that was already in place, but tweaking it a bit to fit the exercise. What happened was that I ended up with all sorts of awesome ideas, and she ended up on a great adventure (of vengeance!). It was fun to write, but with the added benefit of sorting through several issues I’d been trying to work out. It also led me to a character I’d been planning but hadn’t quite fit into the main storyline yet. All in all, a great success!

Up Tomorrow
The Covetous Competition (#5)

Plot Exercise 10: Fish Out of Water

Exercise 10: Fish Out of Water
From Kristina Bjoran (#2)

My Thoughts
This exercise ended up pushing me in a surprising way that none of the others have. I was interested in focusing on my hero because I thought it would be really fun to stick him in an uncomfortable situation, but as I started to brainstorm I realized that I couldn’t think of a single situation he would balk at. Not okay!

Because I needed to backtrack to do some more character work on him, the exercise took more time than the previous ones, but once I did that, I came up with some great ways to make him squirm. Overall, I liked the exercise itself for the comedy of the resulting scene, but I’m mostly grateful that it brought to light the need to more fully develop this character.

Up Tomorrow
The Avenger (#4)

Plot Exercise 9: Disaster Strikes

Exercise 9: Disaster Strikes
From Kristina Bjoran (#3)

My Thoughts
Even more than confrontation, a disaster is a fantastic way to push the plot in a new direction, or at least to introduce a conflict or an obstacle. I decided on a house fire, and it was fun to play around with all of the possibilities that could arise out of that (fun in a terrorize-my-characters way, of course).

What if someone went missing? What if someone needed medical attention, but it wasn’t available? What if someone died? The what-ifs go on and on, and all of them have major plot fallout. I moved forward with the fire and a missing character, and it ended up with some great drama and some great relationship development.

Up Tomorrow
Fish Out of Water (#2)

Plot Exercise 8: Confrontation

Exercise 8: Confrontation
From Kristina Bjoran (#1)

My Thoughts
Confrontation is such a great tool to push characters in new directions. I used this exercise to have my heroine confront a secondary character she doesn’t have much regular interaction with. What was especially fun was to see where the argument went – because they don’t know each other well and neither can anticipate the other’s reaction. But even more importantly, *I* couldn’t and it was fun to see how they both reacted in an uncomfortable and unusual situation.

I love this idea of using creative writing exercises to push the plot in different ways. I may not end up using this fight or the ensuing backlash, but I very well might. Some of the fallout ended up to be really interesting and could push forward some of the conflict I already had planned.

Up Tomorrow
Disaster Strikes (#3)