Tag Archives: first draft

First Draft Hell

It’s Camp NaNoWriMo time, and oodles of writers all over the world are in a special kind of first draft hell. As we approach the midpoints of our stories, plotters and pantsers alike might be feeling tempted to throw in the towel.

So that’s what this week’s video is about. A look at the things I tend to struggle with as I fight my way through first drafts (and it usually is a fight–none of this comes easy to me) and how I try to change my perspective so I’ll keep fighting.



The Next Big Thing (and the Pain of Beginning)

I’m going to keep this short, because I have places to be. Things to do. People to create.

Yep. Starting a new project today. This one is a story concept that came to me as I was falling asleep one night back in the fall (summer? I dunno), and I somehow hung onto it until morning. I made notes and had to set it aside to get Sworn finished and then to participate in the Skeleton Key book series. No regrets about either of those things, obviously, but I’m SO glad to finally be getting to this one.

And yet… It’s always hard to start. No matter how much preparation I do, how solid my outline is, how well I think I know my characters, or how excited I am about this story, it’s hard. My brain wants to procrastinate.

One more cup of tea.

I should call the insurance company about the thing and probably make that optometrist appointment I’ve neglected for three years.

I should work on that character’s motivations more.

I could start tomorrow…

Nope. I’ve done this enough times to know that it won’t be easier tomorrow. That blank page is going to be intimidating no matter how prepared I am. My characters are going to surprise me and take the story places I didn’t expect, even if I plan every scene down to fill-in-the-blanks level.

It’s not going to come out the way I want it on the first draft if I start it today, tomorrow, or two weeks from now.

And the best way to get over this fear is to just start writing.

Wish me luck.

Screenshot 2016-03-07 08.51.12


WIPpet Wednesday: Awkwarrrrrd

Okay, let’s start with a confession: I’m sharing from a project that’s technically on hold. Much as I love Cat and her story, I have worldbuilding issues there that I need to work through, and I promised my editor I’d try to get some more pre-editing done on Torn, so that’s what I’m doing.

Sparrowhawk & Son is still a work in progress, though, so here we go. Catalen has been forced by her new employer to have a medical exam done. She’s not too happy about the idea, but she’s been promised that she won’t be poked or prodded.

6 paragraphs (3+1+2 for 3/12)


No poking or prodding, my ass. I should have specified that personal questions make me as uncomfortable as physical examinations do. My eye isn’t the only secret I’d prefer to keep.

This room is cold, and not exactly private. Sure, the doctor pulled a curtain around the bed so no one can see me, but the nurses’ hushed murmurs drift through from outside. They can sure as hell hear me.

“Are you sexually active?” The doctor is this roundish old guy with a skinny neck who reminds me of a turkey I once saw.

I shrug, and the open-backed gown they’ve got me wearing slips down my shoulder. “I’m not sexually passive.”

He looks at me over the top of his glasses. “I’ll just mark yes. Any chance you’re pregnant?”

“I’m promiscuous, not stupid,” I tell him. He gives me that look again, and I sigh. “I’m always careful, okay? Always.”


For anyone new here, WIPpet Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by KL Schwengel where we (the WIPpeteers) share a snippet from a work in progress that relates to the day’s date in some way. For more entries, see here–there’s usually a good range of genres, and often work that’s more polished than my first draftishness here. Want to join in? Post to your blog, link back on the linkamajigger, and be sure to visit and comment on other people’s posts.

Apologies to anyone I missed last week (which is everyone who posted after late Wednesday afternoon, I think). Not having my laptop stinks, especially when we’re away for the weekend. :/


ROW80 Update

On to A round of Words in 80 Days, which I keep forgetting to link back to on their blog. Oh, well. Still nice to have some accountability, even if it’s just in my head.

It’s been an interesting week.


First thing: I pulled off that NaNoWriMo win before we went away. Just barely, but I did it. Between that and my insane month-and-a-bit before that of drafting Bound book 3, I’ve written about 130,000 words of first drafts since the end of September. Not a lot for some people, but I’m pooped. Never mind the two weeks of editing I did in there… yeah.


I’m not sure how to say this. We’ve hit a series of small snags on Torn. Nothing to panic about. It’s just that my editor can’t take it until a bit later than estimated (not his fault, just the way things worked out. These things happen). On top of that, I might not even be able to see his notes until the new year. Why? Remember how my laptop died, so I have to use my old desktop? Turns out it’s too old to run the current version of Microsoft Office (or the current version of Windows), so I can’t put Word on it to see Track Changes. No, I didn’t have Word installed on it before, because I use Scrivener and kind of hate Word.

I can’t get my laptop fixed until I get it into FutureShop (hi, pricey service plan!), which means a 4 hour trip to St John’s. I tried to order a mac laptop (which I need anyway) as a replacement. It would have been perfect. Delivery by December 10, a more reliable computer, everything I need…

OOPS, they won’t deliver to a PO box, and we don’t have home delivery. Wait… I need to find out whether I can get that with expedited shipping.

I’m rambling. Sorry.

Just frustrated. And none too happy with Microsoft, either. *glares*

BUT… I’m still moving ahead, and currently using AutoCrit to catch repeated words and other issues to try to save time on editing later. You’d think at this point that I’d notice when I’ve used “hideous” twice in one paragraph, but it’s all a blur to me. And it’s so rewarding when they tell me “nice job!” for not having any dialogue tag-related adverbs in a chapter.

“YAY, ME!” she shouted shoutily. Oops.

Please wish me luck in either getting my computer fixed, getting a new one, or finding a hard copy of an old version of Word.



Started Deathmaker (Dragon Blood Book 2) by Lindsay Buroker, and I’m so glad I did. I’ve been having a lot of trouble really becoming immersed in books lately, but this one did it for me on a long car ride in a way that nothing else I sampled over the weekend did. It’s book 2 of a series (not sure how that happened, but it was on my Kindle), but I didn’t have any trouble getting into it. Good story so far. I did have a moment of “Aaaah, crap” yesterday when they announced something to do with gem power (which is what they use in Sparrowhawk & Son), but hey. It’s all been done before, and I’m sure there are major differences. It’s just a jolt when you see a concept/idea/familiar bit of action from your work in someone else’s.

Anyway, I think I’m going to need to pick up more of Lindsay Buroker’s work if the story ends as well as it starts. Really great stuff. And for writer types, especially independent authors (or author-publishers, or whatever term you prefer), her blog is a fantastic resource.

I also wish I was as prolific as she is. Maybe some day, but I don’t think I’ll ever be “finished first draft at beginning of November, publish the book by Christmas” fast, even on shorter books. I need more time than that. So jealous, though…

More ROW80 here.



Half-Assing #ROW80 (on purpose, this time)

Okay, that was a strange title, so let me explain.

I sort of dropped out of ROW80 (A Round of Words in 80 Days) on the last round because I was worried about boring people with my posts, especially those of you who subscribe by e-mail. You don’t want your phone to go BRRRRRRMP or BING! or whatever on a Sunday just to be notified that OMG KATE SPARKES WROTE ANOTHER 5000 WORDS YAY.

I know. And I don’t want to put you through that.

But I do miss the accountability and the community. So what to do?

I think I’m going to just check in once a week, on Wednesdays (see? Half-assing the reporting bit). That way these posts will be combined with WIPpet Wednesdays, which will be the candy I offer you to go with the vegetables that are my goals updates. If you’re interested in how things are progressing with my goals, by all means read through. I live to serve, and if watching my numbers is at all inspiring, encouraging, or exciting, I hope you’ll follow along.

Just don’t feel like you have to.

Round 4 of ROW80 for 2014 runs from October 6 to December 25. That means it’s GOAL-SETTIN’ TIME.

*rolls up sleeves, spits in conveniently-placed spittoon*


BOUND TRILOGY BOOK #3 – I’m currently at about 36,500 words out of a projected 120,000. I want to have this done by mid-November, if possible, to leave time for my other book-related goal (see below). This won’t be a problem if I can focus and stick to my schedule… so it’ll probably be a problem. But here’s what I’m aiming for:

  • 3000 words a day, 4 days a week. This leaves one day for me to go to town and get groceries, because my children continue to insist on me putting food in their faces. COOKED food, even. So demanding. If I can get more words than that in, I will. If I can squeeze in writing time on the weekends, I’ll do that, too. But based on what I’ve been able to accomplish over the past month, this seems like a reasonable base goal, if a challenging one.
  • So doing the math… That would get me done with this messy first draft thing in 28 working days, or on November 20. Hmm. I’ll have to try to get extra words in there, maybe aim for 14,000 words a week somehow. Because my other goal is…

TORN – barring some miraculous cancellation on the part of one of his other clients, my editor will be taking this one on at the beginning of December. I’ve already worked in most of my beta readers’ notes (many thanks to those of you who got through it so quickly, you’re the best!), but there are a few more things that need fixing up. So as soon as Book 3 is drafted, or sooner if need be, I need to get those last few things cleaned up. This is really important, but I don’t want to interrupt this whole first draft thing while I’m on a roll, so I’m putting it off.

Oooooh, dramatic tension, if only in my own mind!

SHORT STORY – It’s a thing I’m working on, which I’d like to have released by Christmas, but it’ll have to get squished in between other BIG, IMPORTANT STUFF. No promises.


  • listen to two writing podcasts a week. I can do this while I’m cooking or out walking the dog, so this should be an easy one to cross off. Right now I like Hide and Create and The Self-Publishing Podcast.
  • Beta reading. I’m doing this for a fellow WIPpeteer this month. I haven’t started yet, but I’m going to get on it soon. There will be notes. SUCH NOTES THERE WILL BE.
  • Other reading – one or two novels a month seems to be all I have time for these days. Reading just feels like homework right now (heartbreaking, I know), but it’s important. Right now I’m reading Behind the Scenes by Dahlia Adler (so adorable–and I usually don’t like contemporary YA romance) and The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle. We’ll see what comes after that. And I’d like to get through at least one writing-related book this round, too.
  • Organize something fun for the Bound audiobook release in November.
  • Also, I’m using the Duolingo app to learn French. Because why not?* I have no concrete goal for this, except to use it for 10 minutes a day.

I guess that’s enough.

Are you participating this round? Link back to your goals post in the comments so I can stop by and say hello!

October. Oooooh, aaaaah!

October. Oooooh, aaaaah!

*Weird story: I’m pretty sure it had me say, “Je mange les femmes” yesterday, meaning “I eat women.” I’m not entirely sure what they’re implying… this could go in a few directions. Of course, they also think “Je suis un homme,” so you know. Whatever.

Welcome To First-Draftsville, Population: Me

*shoves cabin door open with shoulder, coughs at dust*

Sorry, I still have a lot of cleaning up to do.

It’s been a while since I’ve been here. I wrote the first draft of Bound in 2010, the first draft of Torn in 2012, the first draft of my Urban Fantasy novella Resurrection over a year ago (and that in two very separate parts). Sure, there have been drafts of blog posts since then. Short stories. Flash fiction, just to keep me on my toes. But this? The big stuff?

*whips dust cover off of decrepit sofa*

This is big time.

Have a seat. I don’t think the dust bunnies will bite. Or the plot bunnies, for that matter. Mind the spiders, though.

I’m 18,000 words into the first draft of book #3 in the Bound trilogy. It has a name, but that’s top secret for now. If you need a working title, I was going with “Creepy Uncle Pantaloon’s Circus of Fun.”

Probably best to just go with “book 3.”

My point is… this is kind of a weird place to be. I know some people love drafting. Me? I love revising. I don’t like filling the sandbox, I like playing in it. I like taking the words that are there and improving them, pruning the stray branches off of an unruly story, re-shaping character motivations that aren’t helping them or me, finding the problems and fixing them.

The blank screen is intimidating, I’m not going to lie.

Now, I have done a few things to make it less so, and I’m going to share them with you. I’m always experimenting with technique. This is by no means a permanent battle plan, or right for everyone, but here’s how I’m doing it this time around:

  • This is the end of a trilogy, which means lots of loose ends to tie up (if not all of them, then at least the major ones). I’ve also dealt myself a whole lot of wild cards in books one and two. All of this went into a pair of lists that we’ll come back to later.
  • I’ve known the ending since before I started drafting book one, but until a few weeks ago, the first half of book three was… let’s be generous and say “nebulous.” I knew the answers were there, but I couldn’t see them no matter how hard I tried. Scary stuff. This is where those lists came in. Those were the blueprints and tools that helped me build the bridge to the second half of the book.
  • I planned more this time than I ever have before. Every scene I knew I wanted to use and every one I thought I might use went onto an index card in Scrivener. I added to them, rearranged them, figured out who would be the POV character for each scene. As I made those notes, the holes became clear, and I started to fill them in.
  • I took a fresh look at how the characters have developed so far, where they need to end up, and what internal and external pressures would logically lead them there. They’ve already surprised me a few times, and this could all change, but it gave me ideas for those missing scenes.
  • Having those scenes laid out meant I had no excuse to not start drafting.

That’s it. Nothing fancy. But it’s a big leap from having ideas for events in my head and just trying to get to them, or scribbling notes on paper, as I’ve done in the past.

What I’m really trying to do here is streamline the process. Might save on revisions. We’ll see.

Now, this isn’t to say that everything is planned out and writing is just a matter of finding the right words to express what I already decided on. After ten scenes, things have already happened that I hadn’t anticipated. Bright little moments have popped up and made me smile, new scenes have turned up, internal conflicts have come to light*, past relationships have… well, you’ll see. Plotting doesn’t mean taking the surprises out of writing, as I always thought it would. It just means that with the big things taken care of, I can turn my attention to teasing out the little ones that make a story rich and satisfying. In the past, those moments didn’t come to light until draft two.

It’s still hard. I haven’t had a day yet where the words flowed and my fingers couldn’t keep up with my brain. But I’m hitting a steady pace, and I like what’s happening in the story, even if getting words out of my brain is like pulling taffy.

Taffy. Out of my brain.

Terrible image, sorry. I used up all of my good ones this morning.

This is all I can ask for, really. I’m working. I’m actually enjoying the first draft this time through, even if part of me still just wants to have it DONE.

I’m happy. And I think readers will be, too.

*I now need to go back and make adjustments to Torn because of this–and this is exactly why I draft the next book before I publish the previous one. That, and so I can release more than one book a year.




WIPpet Wednesday: The First, You Say?

Confession: I was going to give you one word, but I already gave you my best word yesterday.

That word, of course, is “Hmrflphmrmbn.”

So now what am I supposed to do? For those of you just joining us (and by the way, welcome!), WIPpet Wednesday is a fantastic weekly event hosted by K.L. Schwengel where we share a bit of a work in progress that somehow relates to the day’s date. Today is 5/1/13… let me see what I can dig up.

So many possibilities! A first kiss? First dance? First anything else? Perhaps. Paragraph one of chapter five? Nope, already did that. Something that’s in first-draft stage? I wouldn’t do that to you.

Wait, yes I would! We WIPpeteers are all about exposing ourselves, aren’t we? Wait… that’s not right. You know what I mean.

First of May, first draft. First pass at the first scene of a new series of… eh, short stories, novellas, who am I to say? Set in our own world, just to shake things up a bit, no connection with previous WIPpet posts (lest you all think I’m a less-than-impressive, amateur, one-trick pony). It’s a long one; feel free to skip if you’re not fond of questionable language,  or the undead talking about sex and religion. For reals, I’d rather have you give this one a pass than offend anyone.

(And yes, I know, flogging a dead horse, but it’s fun!)


Easter Sunday, early evening.

The faithful file into the little white church, oblivious to the dark shape huddled on a rooftop across the road. It’s always cold here in the spring, especially near the water; their breath puffs out in clouds, like the wood smoke that rises from the chimney beside me. I force my diaphragm to expand, pulling air into my lungs and forcing my leather jacket tight against my breasts, but the exhalation that follows isn’t at all visually impressive. One needs body heat for a trick like that.

The river of the congregants slows, but the music continues. If you can call it that; the pre-recorded clanging coming from the speakers on the steeple is dreadful, but it serves its purpose. No one in town could possibly be unaware of the fact that there’s a service about to begin. O Come All Ye Faithful and all that. Wait. No, that’s Christmas. I should remember, but it’s been so long since I stepped into a church that it has become muddled. A minivan pulls into the full church parking lot, circles around, then winds its way through the rows of cars to a spot at the school next door. A harried-looking mother drags a crying toddler from the back while the father lifts a little blonde girl in a flowered dress to the ground. It would be a perfect picture if not for the fact that the dress isn’t nearly warm enough, and the parents hurry the girl into the church when all she wants to do is pause on the steps and twirl to make her skirt flare out. Her father drags her inside, and the door closes again.

“You bastard,” I whisper, and wish I had a cigarette in hand so I could flick the ash for emphasis.

She lands silently on the roof, out of sight, but I feel her coming. “Hey, babe,” she whispers, rousing me from my pensive state. She’s supposed to be my mentor, having been at this five years longer than me, but Trixie has always taken a casual approach. She slides down the slope of the roof and drops to sit beside me. “What’s happening?”


“Jesus Christ.”

I’m not sure whether she’s cursing or making conversation. “Exactly. I feel a certain affinity for him this time of year. Death. Coming back. Unbelievers.”

“Fluffy bunnies and chocolate.”

“That, too.” I remove my sunglasses and squint at the cross on top of the steeple. So much more tasteful than the full crucifix displayed at the Catholic church down the road, though when I think about it, both seem odd. I was killed with a gun; if I had followers, I wouldn’t want them wearing pistols around their necks.

Trixie watches me, apparently finding the situation amusing. “Poor little child, stuck in the past.” She tilts her head to one side, flipping one of her electric blue pigtails forward over her shoulder. “Did you go, before?”

“I did.”

“Do you miss it?”

“Nah.” We’re not supposed to dwell on our lives. Regret is pointless, and nothing can be changed, in life or in death.

“Of course she doesn’t.” I didn’t hear Daniel coming, or feel him. I don’t spend as much time with our field trainer as I do with Trixie, and I’m not attuned to him. It’s an ability that’s been slow in coming to me, and it makes training difficult. “Shivva thinks of nothing but the future, her role in the maintenance of this miserable land’s supernatural resources, the enforcement of… what?”

Trixie is grinning at him.“Shivva’s got a girlie hard-on for church bells.”

“Oh, that’s fine. I was worried she was thinking about sampling from this holy buffet.”

Trixie giggles. “Smorgasbord of the righteous!

I glare at them and put my sunglasses back on. It’s not summer yet, but the light is already getting to me on clear days.

“Aww, whatsa matter, Shivva my love?” Daniel asks in his thickest bayman’s accent, which he’s perfected over his years on the island. “Is de sonlight bodderin’ ye?” He laughs at his own stupid pun, and I take my time raising a fist and flipping him the bird with one pink and green-painted fingernail. “Oh, that’s not nice.”

“I’m sorry, is that too intimidating for you?” I unroll my pointer and ring fingers a joint to leave less of the middle digit exposed, and Daniel claps a hand over his heart and falls backward off of the roof.

“That hurt, Shiv,” he calls up from the ground. “That hurt a lot.”

“Come prove me wrong.”

When his pale brown eyes appear over the edge of rooftop gutter, they express more sadness than I believe he’s capable of feeling. “Be good. I shows you when we gets back to town.”

“Oh, yes.” Bullshit teasing is all it is. Maybe I would have found Daniel attractive if we’d both been alive, but it hardly bears thinking about now. Not only is he my trainer, he’s also dead. Not having a pulse wreaks havoc on a guy’s sex life, unless he’s keen on pharmaceuticals.

Trixie leans back on her elbows and watches the sun set as Daniel pulls himself back onto the roof. “We going, or what?”

“Yes, my dears.” Daniel has dropped the accent, but not the dialect. We’re not really his dears. He’s what the locals call “best kind” on days off, but when we’re training it feels more like we’re his soldiers or his slaves. “Vacation is over, and we leave these fine people to their— Oh, what in the name of everything unnatural is this shit?” He’s been interrupted by the church’s speakers, which are now blasting some hymn, broadcasting the congregation’s mixed vocal talents aver the town. He shakes his head. “I remember when church bells meant something, when they sounded good, played on the hour, and didn’t split my head open with the wailings of Mrs McGuillicutty and her Caterwauling Carolers.”

“Carols are for Christmas,” I remind him.

“Don’t care.” He glares at the church, and turns back to us, all business. “We’re needed in town, ladies.” He studies us for a few seconds, frowning as we continue to laze on the cooling shingles. “Though it doesn’t look much to me like either of you is ready for your first assignment.”

We’re on our feet before he finishes the word. “What?” we ask together.

“As I said. I told Miranda you’re ready, and she said to bring you to the club tonight. Get changed, we’re flying home. Oh, and if you disappoint me, your young, dead asses are mine. Understood?”

Trixie grins at me, and I bounce on the toes of my boots as the excitement fills me. Daniel has been telling us we’re not likely to be ready until well into the next century; this news is both thrilling and terrifying. “What is it?” Trixie squeaks.


The energy seems to flow out through the soles of my feet, leaving me empty and weak. Trixie and I look at each other, and she chews her lip. “On our first assignment?” she asks, but Darius is gone in a flurry of fog as he transforms into a hulking gargoyle-like shape and flies East.

There’s nothing for us to do but follow.

That’s it. Aren’t first drafts charming? It’ll kill me not to pick at this, screaming “LIKE ME! LIKE MEEEE!” But I won’t. Oh, also first attempt at more than a few paragraphs of present-tense, inspired by this blog post by kiralynblue- but hey, it’s first person! Oh, and their first assignment. Hey, I’ve got this May first thing locked up. 🙂

Don’t forget to check out the rest of the WIPpeteers’ works for this Wednesday and share the love. If you’d like to join the fun, click on that link and add your own work in progress snippet, as per the rules stated above.

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