Monday, May 22, 2023

Discovery Writers--how to write in later drafts

 I’ve written on how to approach early drafts if you’re a discovery (pantser) writer. Be free. Take chances. Do lots of prewriting as you’re writing. Understand that because you don’t outline, you will almost certainly need several drafts. All right--so let’s say you’ve written three drafts. Remember, the first draft will be 10K-15K because you're finding your way. The second draft will probably be around 40K because you’re still finding your way and building on top of the foundation you’ve put down.

In draft 3, which might be your final draft, or/and draft 4—you’ll be trying to give your writing structure and development and theme and all the things that you need. You’ll be adding a words. How many depends on you.


When you get to a draft where you have discovered and given some detail to big moments in your novel, then you need to work in foreshadowing. Now, when you’re a reader, you think of foreshadowing as something that gives the reader a sense or clues as to what will happen. As a discovery writer, I’m suggesting you work backward from the important moments of your story and build the foreshadowing to them. Most of your story can be worked out this way. 

Let’s say you have a few plots working in your novel—a mystery plot and relationship plot and a few others. One is the main plot and you have two or three subplots. Once you figure out where they end, you simply work back in a logical way to where they begin (of course it’s not simple or easy, but this will give you a kind of reverse map to follow). So if you have a relationship plot that ends with the girl getting two boys, then you have to figure out how this happened. You have to work with intention to build an exciting, interesting, logical sequence that will lead the reader to whatever ending you’ve worked out. That’s one strand of your story. Then you move on to the next. And next. And next. 

Sunday, April 30, 2023


I think that discovery writers (pantsers) are intuitive writers.  I advise doing a lot of prewriting as you move through a first draft because of this. At the same time, pay attention to your intuition. Cultivate it and try to be open to where it's taking you.

 I think sometimes we back away from our intuition. Maybe it takes us in an uncomfortable direction and we force our story to go in a different direction. But maybe backing away makes our work less than it could be or maybe costs us a lot of time because we lose the thread of the story that we're really meant to write.

 As discovery writers who don't outline or don't outline much, we have to be open to finding our story as we write. Feeling confident in our intuition—working on understanding the cues that will help us build the story we're trying to write—can help us write better and faster.

If you have the time, check out a four minute story I recorded on YouTube. It's humorous horror or creepy comedy...certainly strange, but I was following my intuition.

Good writing!


Saturday, April 1, 2023

One Thing I've Done To Write Faster THIS last Year

 The one thing I’ve done in the past year that has helped me be a better writer and a faster writer is FOCUS ON THE FLOW. Now, there are specifics to this, like my discovery-writer-self finding a way to discover write my drafts and still be fast. HINT--first draft only takes about two weeks. See earlier entries for more on this, but I’ll write a blog on it in more detail soon.

BUT nothing has helped me more than my goal when I sit down to write. Everything I do is an attempt to get in the Flow. Once I get there, I’m writing faster and usually better than when I’m not in the Flow. It’s pretty simple: you need to not find excuses to break the flow once you get it going. Any kind of interruption will break it. A lot of them are self-made: I suddenly have to check my email; I start thinking about some problem in my life; the phone rings and I answer it; I have to do research; I have something that needs doing that day that I suddenly must do; someone comes into my writing space to tell me something and ON and ON...

You can’t let these things get in the way. It’s that simple. You have to find a block of time, sit at your desk, and write. Don’t interrupt yourself. Don’t let others interrupt you. I can’t tell you the difference this has made. Oh, wait, I can. I can write about 1000 words in an hour if I’m not interrupted. If I am interrupted, I’ll do maybe a thousand in a day. Whatever your numbers are, think of that ratio. You’ll write more or less, but whatever you write you’ll see a real improvement if you actually, truly write when you’re writing. It’s easy to fool yourself. I speak from experience—unfortunately.

Another tip—don’t start off your writing time by checking email etc.. or going on the internet. If you need to sit for a minute or two and think about what you’re about to write, visualize it, write out some sentences about it, by all means do. But then get right into the writing. Some days the FLOW will come easily and other days it will be a struggle. 

BUT the more often you get there, the more you’ll write.

Good writing,


Saturday, March 4, 2023

Pantsers (Discovery Writers) NEED a Blueprint

 Pantser (Discovery Writer) — A writer has to face the blank page. It can be daunting. A bitter, cold winter storm, an empty white as far as the eye can see. Now, the outliner, feeling all warm and comfy has his or her outline to keep that empty white at bay. They pull it around them like a warm coat.

 But you can't outline. If you're wired a certain way, trying to force yourself to outline will just leave you frustrated and maybe worse, feeling defeated by the blank page, feeling like you will never be able to finish your novel. Because here is the thing: that blank page isn't just there the first day you start writing. It isn't just there at the beginning of your novel. It is there every day you push forward in your story. Every single morning you face it.

But here's what I'd like to advise— you need to think of a first draft as blueprint. You can't get hung up on trying to make your pages into the story you hope to write. Understand that for you (unlike the outliner) that first draft will go all over the place. Let it. Write down alternative possibilities in places. Force yourself to keep going.

My trick: I write a first draft in two weeks or less. I'll write bits and pieces of it but I won't be afraid to stop narrative flow and just write myself notes. X might happen here or Y might happen OR even--not sure what will happen here. 

This is important: what you are trying to do is discover your story, your characters, your world, in the first draft. It might be 20K or a bit more or less. Write it out from beginning to end, do it fast, don't let yourself get caught up in sentences too much. Try to, especially, get the story down.

Then in draft 2 you'll have a first draft that will be a kind of outline/ first draft combo—with dialogue and notes and scenes all mixed together. As a discovery writer (pantser if you prefer but I do not) you find your way in a first draft and it becomes a blueprint for the several drafts you will need to complete your novel. You can still write quickly and well. You just have to have a different approach if you're a discovery writer. 

This shift in thinking will make all the difference.

Good Writing!


Sunday, January 15, 2023

How Do You Create Characters Your Readers Need to Read About? Be Present.

It’s good to be present in the moments of your life, and it is also good to be present in the moments of your story and your character’s lives. That’s it. You want to communicate to the reader who your character is then what they do, what they see and don’t see, think and don’t think, feel and don’t feel, is everything. Sure, you can roll in backstory, their past, but even here what’s important is how whatever happened in their past made them feel and think and how that shaped them. I had two grandmothers: both of them were poor, uneducated, and married the wrong men. One was bitter and that bitterness filled whatever room she was in. The other was joyous, interested, funny and that filled whatever room she was in. My point: to make you understand each character what happened to them isn’t enough.  To make your reader’s understand what happened to them isn’t enough. You have to show the reader their inner lives.


I think you do this by being present in the telling/showing. You try to express to the reader what the character’s reactions are to what is happening in a scene. You get in your character’s mind and you make things happen and you work to make sure your character’s actions and reactions —physically, emotionally, and intellectually— are authentic. That’s how you build a character your reader will want to read about.

Sunday, December 18, 2022

How To Be Prolific


You write a lot. 

OK, but how do you write a lot?

You have to focus.

OK, but how do you focus?

Now we’re getting to it. And I have to warn you. It’s easy to fool yourself about how much you actually write. So one way to focus is to document how much you actually write. 

SPOILER ALERT: you most likely think you spend more time writing than you do because all those little breaks, even just looking at your email or going to the kitchen to make coffee or grab a little snack or going to the bathroom TAKE TIME. Your writing time. So be exact. How much time do you write?

There are two reasons this is important. If you know how much time you’re writing, then you can figure out how many words you write, on average, in a certain amount of time, say an hour. It will motivate you to compete with yourself if you’re like me. BUT here’s the more important, in my opinion, reason. You can’t just turn writing on and off like your turn the water on and off at your kitchen sink. Doesn’t work that way. If you get distracted while you’re writing, you lose your focus and when you lose your focus your writing speed and, often, writing quality go way down. When you lose focus you lose momentum.Writing is going well. It’s like coasting down a hill. But you stop. You interrupt. When you come back, you aren’t going down a hill. You aren’t even on a flat straightaway. You’re going uphill. You just looked at your email and you’re going uphill.

Sucks, right?

You want to be prolific? It’s easy. Write a lot. Write going downhill. Don’t allow interruptions. 

WHAT TO DO: Short version: avoid distractions/ MAKE WRITING TIME WRITING TIME.

1.    Get yourself to a place where others won’t interrupt you. Set an amount of time to write before you take a break. Some like sprints of 15-20 minutes. I get going and I prefer to keep writing for an hour or an hour and a half before I break.

2.    DO not interrupt yourself. No checking messages. No looking at facebook or whatever your social media preference is. No looking up questions the manuscript brings up by visiting google or websites (do that after writing time).

3.    Some people mediate for a couple minutes before writing and some visualize the scene they’re about to write and some spend a couple minutes writing out what might happen in the scene and what it moves forward (plot, character, setting?)—this would be me. DO something to get yourself into the scene and then write it.

4.    Keep track of how much you write in each session. There will be some variation but you should get more words and better words as your focus gets stronger.


 Good luck,


Saturday, November 26, 2022

Make Discovery process work for You

 Fellow Discovery Writers (sometimes known as pantsers, a term that does not describe our process and was likely started by outliners)—do not allow the outliners to make you feel less. Your method is as relevant to the struggle of writing a novel as those who sit down and roman numericize (figuratively or literally) to a nice neat plan of story.


Truth bomb: most of us do some discovering and some outlining when it comes right down to it-though usually more one than the other- but for purposes of this blog entry let me just advocate for my brothers and sisters who discover their way to novel writing.


Five points to help you make your Discovery process work for you.


1.     Write the very first draft of your discovery quickly and with a carefree attitude. By this I do not mean take a “let them eat cake” attitude toward your reader or good writing habits. I mean realize that you are finding your way (hence the word discovery) and that you will go wrong here and there. Write that first draft in weeks, not months. Fast and furious.

2.     Realize as you’re writing that first draft that you will go wrong in several. places. Write yourself notes when you’re unsure about plot points. Leave the final decision for the next draft.

3.     Sometimes you may realize you have a choice at a certain point: maybe the character leaves home or maybe she stays thinking to help her mother with her drug habit and leaves later after failing—you’re not sure which way works better. Try both or choose one but leave open the possibility of the other.

4.     In my first drafts, I’m working on what names work for places and people etc.… They often change. That’s OK. Sometimes finding the right names takes a while. Let your people talk to each other. Sometimes hearing their voice, in relation to another voice or voices, can be helpful in learning character.

5.     BE OPEN all the way through your draft. That’s key. But finish. You have to finish. My first drafts are generally around 20-25K because some chapters I’ve written a scene and then described what comes next in the chapter. You’re writing fast so if you get stopped just write that you’re unsure how to finish the chapter—if necessary.

6.     BONUS POINT—one of the realities of discovery writing is that you’ll need more drafts than an outliner. Another reason to make draft 1 short and with many possibilities.  I usually writer three drafts, a revision, and a polish. I can still write a novel in 3-4 months.


Good luck and good writing,