6 Tips on How to Conquer Your First Draft

6 Tips on How to Conquer Your First Draft

First drafts are really hard. 

You’re taking this idea floating around in your head, and you’re trying to get it down onto paper in the way you envisioned.

First drafts are really hard, but they’re also really rewarding. That feeling you get when you hit your stride and know that what you have now is just the beginning of something wonderful — that’s priceless.

The good news is that once you get your first draft down, it can only get better. 

I’ve always prided myself on being a fast and efficient drafter. (Just this April, I wrote 75k for Camp NaNo) That being said, I’ve learned some ticks and trips to making writing a first draft as easy as writing a first draft can be. 

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Editing during your first draft is very rarely a good idea.

I know I like to talk about how everyone has a different process and how you have to find that process by trying different things, but. . .

First drafts are a fragile thing, and editing as you go can probably do more harm than good:

  • Being critical of your first draft before it’s even finished isn’t fair to your creative mind
  • It’s hard to switch between editor hats and writer hats when all you need to do is get the story down
  • Once you realize how bad your draft is (because you will — everyone realizes this) it’ll be hard to keep writing instead of rewriting

It’s like climbing a really tall building. If you look down, you’re going to freak yourself out.

I love editing as I go during revision, but during first drafts I have to turn off the part of my brain that wants everything neat, organized, and as polished as possible. You can’t move forward in your first draft if you keep looking backwards, so turn your inner perfectionist off and write.

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So you can’t edit — but it’s still hard to ignore all the messes that do come up during your first draft.

Every time I come across a problem in my first draft (which is often, no matter how much outlining I do before) I add it to a list of things wrong with my draft.

It sounds kind of demoralizing, as if you’re keeping a list of your failures, but for me,  knowing I have problems and knowing I can fix them later is really helpful.

Plus, once I write something down, I can let go of the critical thought, because I know it’s written down and will get taken care of later. It also makes revision a lot easier, too!

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Shannon Hale said, “I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.”


This is so important to remind yourself when you’re writing a first draft! It’s hard to create something out of nothing, but you can’t revise and perfect a story that’s not there.

The purpose of your first draft is to get the story down. That’s your goal.

It doesn’t matter if your sentences are incoherent, if there are several typos, if there’s a plot hole in the first act and an even bigger one in the third. Your characters can be flat, your prose can be purple.

Just get the story out of your head and onto paper.

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Your first draft isn’t going to be “good” the same way your favorite book is.

When I’m drafting, I become a little too conscious of other people’s work. I think everyone else is writing flawless work except for me.

But that’s not true. Your first drafts aren’t going to be like anyone else’s first drafts. And it certainly won’t be like anyone’s finished draft.

Don’t get yourself down by comparing your rough rock to a diamond that’s been polished several times.

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During this process, be flexible, or you’ll break.

If you’re an outliner, prepare to pants.

If you’re a pantser, prepare to outline.

As long as you’re writing the story, you’re doing the first draft the “right way.”

The process may not look like what you thought it would. Your outline may fall through. Your plan to just pants everything might fall through. Be prepared to switch gears and do something you’ve never done before, because every book is different.

Every book needs to be told a different way, so don’t put yourself in the box.

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In your darkest hour (aka, the first draft) it’s going to be hard to remember why you started this whole stupid thing. You’re convinced that your cat could have come up with a better idea.


But that’s probably not how you felt when you got the idea, right? Remember when you were excited to write? Excited to dive into a new world with new characters?

Remembering why you start can help you push through your first draft:

  • Frame it — Can you vividly remember a time when you were really excited about your story? During Camp NaNo in April, I became super jazzed about my story. There were butterflies in my stomach and my fingers tingled with anticipation. When I felt that way, I wrote about it. I wrote a note to future Madeline to remind her how I felt. Now whenever I need a pick-me-up during revisions, I turn to that note.
  • Aesthetic board — Is there a better way to pump yourself up? Look at your aesthetic board, look at the pictures that tell your story, and let them inspire you.
  • Sticky note on your computer — Why are you writing this story? Why this one? Take some time to think about the answer, then write it out and put it on your computer.
  • Keep a list of things you like — This is like the list of things you want to fix, but more fun. Highlight the lines you’re proud of. Write down a list of things you think you’re doing well. Your first draft won’t be all roses, but there will be some. You just need to look for them.


Writing a first draft is one really big mind game you play with yourself. Once you start writing, the trick is to keep your fingers going, to keep the ideas coming.

Here’s how I try to keep my momentum during a first draft:

  • Leave off in the middle of a chapter — It might feel weird, but being able to go back and read where you left off will help you ease right back into writing. Staring at the blank page of a new chapter is hard, but coming back to words already written isn’t quite so bad.
  • If I’m having a good writing day, I try to keep writing — If I hit my daily word count, but I’m still feeling good, I take advantage of it. It’s nice when creativity shows up at the same time you do.
  • Take breaks from writing, but never from the story — I usually give myself all weekend off from writing. To keep my momentum, I assign myself the mental homework of continuously thinking of my story off the clock.

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Let's Talk!

There you have it! 6 tips for getting through your first draft. What does your drafting process look like? Do you like first drafts or hate them? I have a bit of a love-hate relationship.


Connecting With the Bookish Community: Writers Tag


Connecting with the Bookish Community_ Writers Tag-2

One of my favorite things about the writing and reading community is, well. . . the community! There are a lot of wonderful people that are creative, supportive, and really positive. I was tagged by two of these people — K.M. Allan and Lorraine Ambers to do the Writers Tag, so let’s hop in!


Here are the rules: 

  • Post the Tag and Image on your blog
  • Thank whoever nominated you and give a link back to their blog.
  • Mention the creators of the award and link back to their blogs.
  • Nominate 6+ deserving bloggers and notify your nominees by commenting on their blog

This tag was created by Lorraine Ambers and Ari Meghlen. Ready, set, go!


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Name one novel that inspired you to write.

I don’t think there was just one! I was typing stories before I could handwrite anything. I didn’t know which direction to write my “e”s, but I did know how to type and I knew I wanted to tell stories. So really, every book I’ve ever read has inspired me.

What’s your favorite genre to write and read?

This is really specific, but I like writing YA contemporary fantasy. The real world with a touch of magic? I’m all there. I love reading it, too, but I’m a lot more broader when it comes to my reading tastes. I’ll pick up anything YA.


Do you prefer to write stand-alone or series?

Stand-alones! I don’t really like to read series (too much commitment!), so I would imagine I have no clue how to write them. Not only that, I don’t get ideas for series. When I get book ideas, the characters come to me for one story, and that’s all I have to tell.

Use 3 words to describe yourself.

Hufflepuff, optimistic, big-hearted

Reveal your WIP aesthetics or an image that represents your MC or setting.

I am currently revising (and looking for betas! see the end of this post for more info):

And currently outlining this for NaNo:

How long did your first MS take to draft?

I wrote my very first MS for NaNoWriMo in 2011 when I was 15. (WHICH FEELS LIKE EONS AGO I’M SO OLD AND SO YOUNG ALL AT ONCE WHAT IS TIME??) So I wrote it in a month! Like I said, from a young age I’ve loved stories, and I’m grateful that I allowed myself to listen to my heart and start pursuing my dream of being published when I was young.

Who is your author idol?

Stephanie Garber! She’s not my #1 favorite author, but I think she’s a wonderful light in the bookish community, and I really admire her.

Share a writing memory that made you determined to carry on.

This is such a broad answer, but almost every time I get lost in a book, I become even more determined to write. I’m inspired by the way books make me feel — that’s what keeps me determined to jump out of bed early and write.

Tell us something surprising or unique about yourself.

I LOVE my coffee dark and sans creamer or milk, but in the fall I’m a sucker for a sugary sweet pumpkin spice latte. 


Share the hardest part about being a writer and how you overcame it.

The guilt I feel when I’m not writing is tough for me to deal with. I used to get home late from school totally drained, and instead of writing, I would pass out on the couch until dinner and then go back to bed. That made me feel guilty about not writing, which attached a lot of negative feelings to writing in general. That made me want to write even less, which made me feel even guiltier. (lots of feelings)

I overcame this by learning how to wake up early and write before the day leaves me drained. Sometimes I still feel guilty for not writing more (like if I get a free hour during the day, I feel like I should be using it to write instead of relax) but I try to tell myself that I am enough, and I’m doing enough.

What’s your favorite social media and why? Share your link.

Instagram! I’m not on the platform yet, but I really want to get into the writing community on Instagram, and I’ll make sure to link that when I finally make the jump. (I honestly don’t know what I’m waiting for)

Share some uplifting wisdom in six words or less.

You are enough.

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And to finish off the tag, I’m tagging 6 writers! There’s no pressure to join, and if I didn’t tag you, feel free to tag yourself.

Oh, and while I’m on the topic, of connecting with writers and readers. . . I’m looking for beta readers for my YA contemporary fantasy about a tarot card reader who can read anyone but herself — and the new surfer boy that just moved in to the attic.

It’s a mix of THE RAVEN CYCLE and BONE GAP, and here’s a one line summary: A tarot card reader has to explore her connection to the mysterious new surfer boy in order to find her missing father and save her sick psychic sister.

If that sounds like something you’d like to read, let me know! And of course, if anyone ever needs a beta reader, I’d love to help. 🙂

Let's Talk!

What has been your biggest struggle as a writer? Do your favorite genres to write and read differ, or are they the same?


8 Ways to Make Time for NaNo

8 Ways to Make Time For NaNo-2

In a few weeks, the magic number is going to be 1,667. That’s how many words you need to write PER DAY to meet the 50k goal of NaNo. That’s how you write a novel — word by word.

Okay, but isn’t 1,667 words kind of a lot? It is! But it’s also totally doable. I’ve done NaNo more times than I can count, and I’ve officially won 4 times, so I’ve kind of learned how to make some extra room in my life for this novel that needs to be written insanely fast.

You’re not going to find this time lying around waiting for you (although how awesome would that be?), you’ve got to make time. So, here are 8 ways you can make more time for your novel during NaNo.

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National Novel Writing Month isn’t the most romantic way to write a novel. Just let me break it down for you.


  • Wake up just before dawn, feeling inspired and ready to write.
  • Stay up late at night writing by moonlight until the sun comes up and I feel rejuvenated
  • Get several uninterrupted hours to sit down at Starbucks with my pumpkin spice latte and my laptop, writing blissfully for half an hour.


  • Get up ten minutes early, resisting the urge to hit snooze, and scribble some words down on a piece of paper while I’m eating breakfast.
  • Fall asleep at night, my head still swimming with ideas, some of them which might make it into a notebook for the next day.
  • Get Starbucks and type a few lines in my Notes app inline while I wait for the venti coffee I plan on chugging.

I mean, some days, I might have a really awesome writing day! And that’s lots of fun. I hope you get those kind of days, too.

Bust most of the time, the muse won’t come knocking whenever its ready to deliver your 1,667 words for the day. Other days (most of the days, really, unless you’re a witch or a wizard) you won’t even “get” time to write. No, you’ll have to make it.

NaNoWriMo won’t work unless you do. It’s not going to be pretty, but it’s going to be worth it.

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If you’re about to shout “THAT’S A NO FROM ME” — hear me out for a second.

When I was in high school, I struggled with coming home from work/school/a full day of Hogwarts classes (okay jk but I wish) and writing. I was exhausted, and even if I had the time in-between a job and after school activities, it was tough to find the energy to write. Sound familiar?

That was me for, like, 5 years. Yeah. I would come home from school, try to motivate myself to write, and then just fall asleep on the couch.


If you’re coming to your writing drained, I highly highly highly suggest writing in the morning, when you have a clear mind you’re recharged. It’s hard to leave your warm bed at first (trust me, it still is) but the writing I get done in the morning is soooooo worth it.

What better way to start your day then by making your dreams come true?


I get stuff done. And for NaNo, you’ll have a lot of stuff to get done.

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I understand it’s supposed to be your break, but this is NaNo. To do something you’ve never done (like write a novel in 30 days) you have to try things you’ve never done (like alternating between eating a sandwich and typing a paragraph of your first draft.)

That being said, don’t skip lunch so you can write. (Ah, that’s the catch 22 of NaNo you have to be productive without burning yourself out) Consider carving out just 10 minutes from lunch (like the time you usually use to check your phone) and jotting down a few paragraphs. During NaNo, every bit helps.

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Getting the 1,667 every single day is tough. Trying to go to bed at the end of the day knowing you’ve only written 743 words is tough. Getting behind in NaNo isn’t fun, and it’s definitely a big blow to the morale.

If you try to hit 1,667 every single day, you’re going to stress yourself out. It’s really easy to get behind and decide to give up completely. In the end though, it’s not a sprint. You have an entire month worth of days to catch up.

During the month, build in a few days to play catch up. November You will really thank October You for setting aside a few days (or even a few extra hours each week) for November You to write. Be protective of this time!

Let yourself get behind, let life happen as it happens, and plan to catch up. It’s impossible for the world to stop spinning because it’s NaNo, so plan accordingly. (Also, how awesome would it be if November was like an international month-long holiday? Although we have Thanksgiving so that’s a good start)

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Yeah, you knew this suggestion was coming sooner or later, didn’t you?

When I wake up, I don’t reach for my phone and scroll through it for half an hour. When I get into bed at night, I don’t reach for my phone and scroll through it for half an hour. When my alarm goes off, I get out of bed and go write. When I get into bed for the night, I pick up a book and read.


Because guess what? The first thing I do doesn’t have to be looking at my phone. The last thing I do doesn’t have to be to looking at my phone.

Which I guess is a very long way to say: get ready to give up something during NaNo that is sacrifice-able, which is probably going to be your phone. (That sounds weird? Let me try again. . .)

Get ready to give up something that you don’t need:

  • Browsing through your phone to “relax” — You have a novel to write! Instagram can wait! (Although I do love instagram)
  • Netflix — Hmmmm hmmm. You knew this one was coming.
  • Makeup — This is kind of a personal one? But during NaNo I like to embrace my natural beauty and give myself an extra ten minutes to write instead of wiggling black goop onto my eyelashes.
  • Exercising — HEY WAIT A SEC. No, you can’t skip exercising for NaNo, nice try. To keep your mind in tip-top shape, you have to keep your body in some-kind-of-shape that’s not a couch potato.

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Word sprints are going to be your bff. Whether you have 10, 5, or less than 2 minutes, you can crank out more words than you had 10, 5, or 2 minutes earlier. And that’s kind of what NaNo is about. You write a novel word by word.

Look for itty-bitty pockets of time you have in-between the happenings of your daily life. Hint: if you’re looking at your phone, you probably have time to write. (Are you getting the sense that it’s possible your phone is going to be a really big time suck during NaNo?)

Here’s where you can look for little pockets of time:

  • 5 minutes before you run out the door for the day
  • When you get to class or work a few minutes early
  • After lunch when you’re not 100% ready to get back to work
  • 5 minutes before you go to bed

Not so hard, right? I’m a pretty fast typer, so when I sit down and do a no-frills cut-to-the-chase word sprint, I can get in about 300 words in 5 minutes. So even just one word sprint in the morning and one at night, that’s about 600 words.

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I once had a writer friend who hand wrote like 2 novels during November because she wrote during class. Which is crazy!

I have mixed feelings on this? Because if you are at school, you’re lucky to be getting an education. It’s a privilege that a lot of people don’t get, and it’s not something to be taken for granted.

That being said. . .

I’ve been there (I’m still there) and I’ve done that (I’m still doing that) and sometimes there are just THOSE classes. Yeah — you know the ones. If it’s going to benefit you more to work on your novel, then work on your novel.

I’m just throwing this suggestion out there, because it is a great way to get stuff written. But don’t take your education for granted, right?

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Right, so the only way to get words written during NaNo is to write words. I’m about to go all Shyla Buff(ish??) on you.

NaNo teaches everyone a secret about writing: the only way to write is to just write.

The muse won’t strike you with a lightning bolt of creativity.

The world won’t yield to your creative bursts.

An extra hour won’t appear in your day because you’re doing NaNo.

Writing is an art. It’s a craft. But in my opinion, writing is also a discipline. The people who get published are the people who don’t give up.

The only way to get your novel written during NaNo is to write it. Easy peasy lemon squeezey. There are no hacks or tricks — just hard work and your novel.

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Those are all the tips I have for today! I feel like it was a lot? Thank you so much for reading until the end, I wish I could give you some coffee!

Also, in case you didn’t notice, I changed up my color scheme a little bit! It feels more fall-appropriate and also a bit more my style? I want this blog to feel like a cozy coffee shop were we can just talk about books and writing.

I’m thinking about changing up my layout, too, so stay tuned and feel free to let me know what you think of these colors in the comments!

Let's Talk!

If you’re doing NaNo, how is your Preptober doing? Are you getting excited or nervous? What’s your #1 tip for finding time to write during November?

How to Prepare for NaNoWriMo Based on Your Hogwarts House

HOW TO #NaNoPrep BASED ON YOUR Hogwarts House.png

“I don’t know if I’m a pantser or a plotter! All I know is that I’m a Hufflepuff.”

Ah, yes. I heard your (imaginary) cries on Friday’s post about how to approach NaNo depending on whether you’re a pantser, plotter, or somewhere in between. What if you don’t know — what if all you know is your Hogwarts house? (I’m in the same boat, I have no clue what’s going on 99% of the time but I do know I’m a Hufflepuff)

Never fear! A lot of great decisions can be made by using your Hogwarts house as a compass. (Said no one, but it’s kind of true if you think about it. . .)

Even though it’s only October, have no fear! You only need to know two things:

  • That you want to do NaNoWriMo
  • What Hogwarts House you’re in

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Face it head on — pants this sucker.

Brave and daring, Gryffindors know the most courageous and heroic way to do anything. And what’s more heroic than charging into NaNoWriMo without a plan? (The answer is not much, besides maybe trying to challenge Dolores Umbridge)


Pantsing is for winners. Pantsing is for the brave.

Gryffindors are the over zealous ones that run head on into November, armed with only a pen and their chivalry.

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Break out the character worksheets.

Loyal, kind Hufflepuffs make great friends. They’re very empathetic, which makes them character-driven writers.

Sure, plot is important, but a plot couldn’t happen without characters.

Get cracking on those character worksheets (here, here, and here are some of my favorite resources for kick-butt character building), because knowing your characters inside and out will make for a honest, raw, and heartwarming plot.

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You’re already done with your 100 page outline.

That’s right — Ravenclaw’s are no dummies. They know that the failing to prepare is preparing to fail. No outline? You mine as well give up now.


Writing is an intellectual activity. Sure, the witty dialogue comes naturally, but how else will you get a brilliantly woven plot if you don’t outline?

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Write the whole thing in the first week of NaNo.

Nothing says cunning overachiever like writing all 50k in one week.

Of course, you’ll have to use every mean necessary to get your way. Shut the door, close the blinds, and throw your phone in the toilet, because you’re writing this whole novel in one week.

And then you’re going to spend the rest of the month on Twitter, bragging about how you’re already done, and feeling sorry for those that are struggling.

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Let's Talk!

Which Hogwarts House are you in? Are you doing NaNo this year? If you’ve already done it, do any of these match your house?

How to Rock #NaNoPrep, Whether You’re a Plotter, Pantser, Or Somewhere In-between


Happy Preptober!

I love the fall time for so many reasons — warm socks, soft blankets, cozy sweaters, pumpkin spice lattes, falling leaves, and the underlying current of panic in the writer’s community as everyone freaks out over November.

Yup. I did National Novel Writing Month for the first in 2011. I won! I then did it four more times, winning two of those years. That doesn’t mean I lost, but yeah, there were two years when I didn’t finish.

The reason why I haven’t made it to 50k in October: Failure to plan.

This reason why I have made it to 50k in October: I planned.

I didn’t fail because I didn’t have the willpower or the time (you can always find enough of those if you dig down deep enough) but because I just didn’t plan where the story was going.

Whether you’re a plotter or pantser, I highly recommend going into NaNo with some sort of a concrete plan. Your concrete plan can be to do nothing, but at least have an idea. I think that’s my #1 piece of advice. Use October to make November easier on yourself.

That being said, there’s no write or wrong (get it?) way to prep for NaNo. I’m a very intense plotter — I use a combination of all of these methods. THAT’S WHAT WORKS BEST FOR ME. You have to find what works best for you, and I can’t tell you what that is.

BUT! I can tell you what I do, and I can organize what I do in an order from most-plotter-oriented to most-pantser-oriented. Hopefully you can get some ideas on how to make the most of the October before NaNo.

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As a plotter, this is my favorite method. It’s what I used in April for CampNaNoWriMo and what allowed me to write 75k in one month. (And only on weekdays, too!)

This snowflake method, created by Randy Ingermanson is one of the best ways I know of to make sure your story is solid before you start to expand. During Camp NaNo, my outline went from 15 words to 26k.


So here’s a quick little rundown of my all time favorite outlining method: You start by writing one sentence to sum up your whole entire story.

Easy enough, right?

Then, you develop your one sentence into four sentences — one sentence for each fourth of the book (assuming we’re using four act structure). Next you get down the heart of your characters — what they want, and why. Then you get to fill in the gaps, turning each sentence into a paragraph, and then every sentence in those paragraphs into more paragraphs. (Whew, that’s a mouthful)

In other words, your story expands rather naturally, and it’s a pretty good sure-fire way to ensure that the bare bones of your draft (the four act story structure) are nice and strong. Granted, they may not stay that way all through NaNo, but it’s a start.

Also, remember your outline is a roadmap. It’s okay to take detours — that’s part of the fun of road trips.

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I do this in conjunction with snowflake method, so if you want to get crazy, I’ll be getting crazy with you. Since I’m a character driven reader, I’m a character driven writer, too.

While plot is really important, a good character arc makes a book in my opinion. When I use the snowflake method, I try to make sure that each beat and important event in my story is tied to not only my protagonist’s outer journey, but their inner journey, too.


To me, character arcs in relation to plot is really, really fascinating. I learned everything I know from K.M. Weiland’s character arc series. It’s a must read if you’re a character driven writer/reader like me. Seriously — get out some paper and a pen and take notes while you’re at it. IT IS A GOLD MINE.

I also like character sheets. Sometimes it’s hard to know EVERYTHING about your character from the get go, but a good character sheet will get you thinking about the important things — important things that might cause you snags later on when you’re two weeks into NaNo and realizing you can’t remember what color eyes your MC has, and also, why does she want world domination again??

While you can find a ton of good character sheets on the internet (Hi, Google!) these two are my absolute favorites:

  • 33 Ways to Write Stronger Characters — There are a lot of really good questions here, and it’s kind of like a formula (a 33 step formula) to building a character
  • Rachel Giesel — I can’t find the exact worksheet I use, but a lot of these character resources are really, really heplul when it comes to crafting my characters.

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This is how I get my story blossoming into the gorgeous flower it will soon be.

One of these days I need to write a post completely dedicated to mind maps, because they are they absolute best!

I’m sure you were forced to make these in school when they “taught you how to brainstorm” (please tell me I’m not the only one who was taught how to brainstorm? it sounds weird now, but I am thankful for my teachers showing me how to think creatively) but mind maps are a great way to make connections between ideas.

Here’s an example of one of my (many) mind maps for NaNo:


Whatever you want to make your mind map about, put that in the center of the paper. From there draw a line outwards and write whatever comes to mind. If you think of something that branches off that idea, go ahead and draw another line outwards. If you think of something else that stems from your main idea, go back and add a new line outwards.

When I’m done, I like to highlight good ideas on my mind map, so with a quick glance I can understand what I need to take away.

Usually by the time you’ve followed an idea a few ideas outwards, you’re hitting gold.

I like to mind map to really get my ideas off the ground before I outline, but you can totally just do these and let NaNo do the rest.

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This is how I plant the seed of my novel (I see we’ve adopted a flower metaphor somewhere along the way)

You didn’t really believe I would write a post about NaNoPrep without including aesthetics, did you? (If you did you are wrong haven’t you heard of my campaign to make #thursdayaesthetic everyday?)(I’m just kidding, I’m not campaigning for that BUT I SHOULD BE)

I’ve already written about this in depth, so feel free to hop over to that post for a little inside look at how I make my aesthetics so aesthetically pleasing — and also inspiring.

It’s such a great way to get a vibe for your novel, and it’s also a really great tool for when:

  • you need to get yourself in the writing mood
  • when you need help visualizing something
  • when you feel like brainstorming

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Okay, we’ve moved on from talking about flowers — now we’re talking about cheese. Ain’t nothing wrong with cheese. Chances are, if you’re pantsing NaNo, you’re going to need some snacks.

Well, if you’re doing NaNo at all, you’re going to need some snacks. My go to writing snack is cheese sticks.


Anyways, this is what I do months before NaNo or anytime I write a first draft. I give the idea a lot of time to just sink into my mind. I pass most of the work off to my subconscious, until slowly I’m getting ideas and a story is taking place.

If all you want to do before going into NaNo is let your idea sink into your mind, and let all your subconscious do the work — that’s fine! While some writers work well with intense outlines, some writers work best flying by the seat of their pants.

The one thing I would say is this:

Take October to figure out if your a pantser or a plotter. Don’t try to force yourself to pants when you’re a plotter, or plot when you’re a pantser. Don’t feel any pressure, either.

The best way to prepare for NaNoWriMo is whichever way gets a book written in November — and you’ll know what process works best for you.

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Let's Talk!

Are you doing NaNo this year? How do you use October to plan? And the age old question: plotter, pantser, or somewhere in-between?

22 Lessons Books Have Taught Me in 22 Years


In honor of the fact that I’m feeling 22 (although 22 feels a lot like 21), I wanted to do a bit of a fun post. Books and stories have been such an enormous part of my 22 years on this planet. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t searching for stories. I can barely remember a time when I couldn’t read. And I remember a little too much time I spent writing bad Lilo & Stitch fan-fic.

Books have shaped who I am. They’re kind of my whole life. People are difficult (okay jk, not all of them) but books are always there (unless they’re due back at the library). That being said, in 22 years, I’ve learned a thing or (twenty) two from books.

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1. Everyone has a story.

Stories are an exercise in empathy. It’s easy to dehumanize people because they’re different or strange or seemingly immoral, but everyone has a story.

2. How to walk in someone else’s shoes

This is totally related to empathy. When you read and write, you stick your feet in someone else’s sneakers and take them for a spin. You can scuff them up, wear them out, and really get a feel for what it’s like to be anyone but yourself.

3. There’s always a lesson to be learned from a hard moment

That’s what a story is, right? “Happiness can be found in the darkest of times, if only one remembers to turn on the light.” Sometimes stories stink — they’re sad or have bad endings and all seems lost. But in retrospect, stories make us who we are.

4. The good guys can win

Frodo can destroy the ring. Aslan beats the witch. Harry Potter defeats Voldemort. The Jedi will return.

5. You have to fight for what you want

Life isn’t fair. People are mean. The odds are stacked against you. None of these are reasons to give up.


6. It’s powerful to believe in yourself and believe in a cause

*insert the dystopian hero that single-handedly overthrows the government because they see the truth that everyone else is blind to* But really, believe in something and you can do great things.

7. You’re not defined by your past

You’re responsible for the choices you make. Sure — bad, horrible, awful things will happen. It’s not about what happens to you, but how you make things happen with the cards you’re dealt. The strongest characters are in charge of their stories.

8. There are things that you can, in fact control

Sometimes it doesn’t feel like it, but it’s your life. That being said. . .

9. There are some things that are out of your control

And I guess that’s how life works. You have to control what you can, and let go of what you can’t.

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1. What it feels like to love a character

Where do I even start with this one? Lenny from The Sky is Everywhere, Georgina and Mary from Summer of Salt, Finn in Bone Gap, Puck and Sean in Scorpio Races, Sloane in This Adventure Ends, Ava from The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, Literally Everyone in The Raven Cycle. . . I could go on.

2. It’s okay to cry sad tears

That doesn’t make you a baby. It’s okay to feel things!

3. It’s extra okay to cry happy tears

Seriously, embrace those emotions.

4. I can always find escape inside of a book

No matter where I am or what I’m doing or what’s going on in my life, I can always find solstice between the pages of someone’s made-up world.


5. The smell of paper will never get old

I just got 9 books for my birthday (with 4 more preordered) and you bet I smelled all of them.

6. How to judge a book by its cover

Uhhh. . . maybe not the best thing? But based on a cover, I can usually tell if I like a book. I feel like that’s maybe a super power?

7. What I’m really passionate about

I’ve ALWAYS loved stories. I was typing my own stories in Kindergarten. I was writing Lilo & Stitch and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle fan-fic in first grade. When I got my very first computer, I typed up a story about my my alter-ego — a zoologist/explorer who saves every animal in the jungle. Writing has always been something I’ve done, and the older I get, the more I realized it’s something want to continue to do.

Stories excite me.

I want to read them and write them and spend my entire life among books. Seven years ago, little high school me just KNEW that she wanted to get an agent, to get published, and build an indestructible author empire (although now I’ll just settle for cats instead of the whole empire thing). And that’s really awesome! Because of books, I knew my dream early and I knew what I wanted to do with the rest of my life — and it gave me time to take this dream seriously.

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1. What a story looks like, and most importantly, what it feels like

I don’t want to pretend I’m Stephen King or anything here, but I’ve been reading for so long, I just know what a story is. Reading so much helps me piece together my ideas in a coherent way.

2. What it looks like when a character is making things happen, rather than just having things happening to them

Aha, yes. The passive character. When everything is happening to everyone but them. It’s hard to catch at first, but I’ve gotten better at catching it. It’s one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned from just reading.

3. A lot of pretty words

Especially Stephanie Garber’s Caraval and Legend. I have a list of pretty words from those books like milky, starburst, and moonstone.


5. I’m a character driven writer

When I look at all the books I like, there’s kind of a theme. It’s not the fast paced plot or high concept ideas that excite me. I love characters who grow and learn truths about themselves and the world.

6. Magic can be built with words

There’s nothing more magical than a story. The way scratches on paper make you see what the author saw, the way they hit you in the heart and the gut and make you feel for not-real people. The way stories burrow into our hearts and shape us as people — that’s magic.

7. Writing is what I want to do forever and always.

Yup — I’m stuck with this silly little dream to be an author. I know publishing isn’t the validation I need as a writer, but with every book I read, I learn more about writing. I get more excited about the craft. And I become even more motivated to keep writing until I can hold my own book in my hands someday.

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Let's Talk!

What have you learned from reading? Have books played a huge role in your life? Also, just for fun: what’s your absolute-all-time-#1-favorite book?

Monthly Coffee Talk & Mini Reviews: September 2018


All right, everyone grab their pumpkin spice lattes and let’s talk about September!

First of all, I want to let everyone know that what they have to say always matters. People care. Remember that your words are valuable.

Given everything that’s going on right now, I wanted to throw that out there. My goal in life is to radiate positivity and happiness and love, and ignoring the news makes it hard to spread the good vibes to people who need the good vibes the most. I know nothing is that simple, but I just wanted to remind everyone that their words and stories are important.

You know what always makes me really happy? Talking about books and writing. Let’s roll.

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(I just realized how cheesy of a sub-title “What I’m Living and Loving” is but I’m going to roll with it because I love cheese.)

September was basically me trying to get back into the routine of school. I’m a really routine driven person, so going back to school after four months at home during summer break meant I had to readjust a lot of my routine. Every day in college is different (between my class and work schedule) so I had to get the weekly momentum going here.

That being said, I think I’m comfortable with my routine now! I’ve still been waking up early to write. I would love to join the 5 a.m. writer’s club (#5amwritersclub) but on a good day I’m usually up by 6. I have a hard time getting into bed early enough to wake up before 6. But I wrote a total of 37 hours in September, which I’m proud of.

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Here’s what else I was up to:

  • I’m considering getting into the #writersofinstagram/#bookstagram game — I do have a personal Instagram, but I’m thinking about building my author platform on Instagram instead of Twitter. There’s just a lot of negativity on Twitter. Like I said, people’s opinions and stories and voices matter, but I think I want to build a space that’s a little more welcoming? I don’t necessarily want people I know finding it (ugh, I know I stink) so that’s kind of holding me back right now
    Hogwarts is back in session! — September 1 is the first day of Hogwarts classes, and I was at home that weekend. I watched a lot of movies and picked the books back up again. I also found out I’m a Hufflepuff, which is really cool! I always thought I was in Ravenclaw, but Hufflepuff is a much better fit.
  • Labor Day — Okay, nothing wild happened over Labor Day but I felt the need to throw it in there BECAUSE I CAN’T BELIEVE Labor Day HAPPENED THIS MONTH? That feels like YEARS ago.
  • First day of fall — YES! Not technically an accomplishment in my personal life, but whatever. I like PSL and I’m not afraid to admit it.
  • I went camping — I went camping, and it actually rained the entire weekend. That’s not even hyperbole. There were 3 hours of dryness. So obviously we decided to pack up early and go home.
  • I stressed myself out to the point of giving myself a stomach ache, but then I read and felt better — Right! A much needed reminder that self care is really important. Also, the world isn’t going to end if I take a break from homework. I spend a lot of my time trying to get ahead so I won’t get stressed out by last minute things. Instead, I just end up stressing myself out even more.
  • I’m feeling 22! — Okay, so not yet. My birthday is on Sunday (September 30) so I’m not yet 22, but I’m feeling like it. And it makes me feel old for some reason? I get freaked out when I think about time: I’m never going to get younger. I will never be 21 again. I maybe want to do a post about 22 things I’ve learned about storytelling/being creative in 22 years. Does that sound interesting?

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I originally wanted to finish the second draft of my contemporary fantasy WIP by the end of December (it was my 2018 goal to have it ready to query and snag an agent before I graduate in May 2019) BUT—

An idea I had one day while driving home from my summer internship has not left me alone since.

Me: okay, okay, I can’t stop thinking about it so it won’t hurt to do an aesthetic board
Also me: don’t do it don’t you dare make that board we are focused on revisions remember? REVISIONS!
Also also me: *makes board*

Yeah. The idea blossomed into a full fledged story until I couldn’t ignore it and I made an aesthetic board so. . .

I plan on doing NaNo! I don’t know, November is just such a good month to curl up with coffee and write.

And hear me out! This is not me procrastinating revisions. This is me deciding to finish revisions by the end of October so I can pass my novel off to alpha/beta readers during November.

When I come back to revisions after NaNo, I’ll have fresh eyes.



Deciding to finish revisions by the end of October meant that I needed to pick up my pace a bit. (I did the math, I have to write 18% faster to finish in time for NaNo) It turns out that using NaNo as a motivator to finish has actually made me revise faster and harder. Which is totally awesome that my reward for writing is more writing. (It means I’m passionate about writing, which makes me so happy to know!)


I spent this month letting the idea grow in my mind, and I’ll spend October finishing up my current WIP and outlining for NaNo!

Lots of exciting things! Lots of excuses to drink more coffee! Lots of exclamation points!

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The beginning of this month was pretty good for reading. As the month went on, though, I didn’t do the best of prioritizing my health and happiness first.

Which means in October, I plan on taking more breaks and reading more books. (Yay!)

hpss hpcs starfish tmc


What I liked:

  • Everything. (All right, a bit of a cheap answer, but I have nothing to say that hasn’t been said before!)

What I didn’t:

  • Nothing.


What I liked:

  • Everything. (Yup, you know the drill)

What I didn’t:

  • Nothing.

STARFISH by Akemi Dawn Bowman

What I liked:

  • I cried! Which is weird that I think a book is good when it makes me sad?
  • This gave me all the feels — happy ones, too
  • The characters were so vivid
  • The ending was beautiful

What I didn’t:

  • The plot wasn’t super compelling? But I was totally in this one for the characters

THIS MORTAL COIL by Emily Suvada

What I liked:

  • Emily Suvada has mastered the art of ending chapters on cliffhangers.
  • The plot was unique!
  • Definitely a strong debut

What I didn’t:

  • I was just “eh” about the characters
  • Things get pretty wild toward the end? Like a bad kind of wild “wait what?” wild
  • It also maybe got a little too scientific for me, so I was stuck relying on character explanations of why I should care/what the stakes were/all that jazz.
  • This book was good! I don’t think I’ll really be recommending it to anyone, though, because there are still so many other great books I’d rather read and recommend.

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I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t been very attentive to blogging this month. I cut back to posts only on Fridays, and I’ve actually seen a pretty big change in stats because of that. And while stats aren’t everything, this blog is for me to build my author platform and share my passion for stories with other storytellers. It’s kind of discouraging to see low stats, but — so it goes.

I might bring back writing two posts per week. I’m thinking about getting in the book blogger meme game (Top Ten Tuesday) or just using Tuesdays to post fun listicle-style articles about books and writing Tuesdays and more serious posts Fridays.

That being said, I do have a plan for writing posts in October: I plan on blogging about NaNo prep!

Then in November, I want to keep the motivation and inspiration high by spreading around some pep talk blog posts.

Stay tuned!

And in case you missed it, this is what I wrote about this month:


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Let's Talk!

How was your September? Are you on Instagram? Should I be on Instagram? Are you ready for fall or do you need more summer?