5 Tips to Beat First Draft Angst

First Draft Angst

First drafts inevitably give me angst–fear, dread, misery. They generally start off snappy, whimsical, full of life and dreams but at some point all those bright lights fizzle out and it becomes work. I do not believe in divine inspiration for my work (stone the witches who do!). At some point, I write myself into a plot wall.

Instead of staring at the same page/sentences/chapter over and over again, it’s best to try something different and break away from that first draft angst.

  1. Start with a blank page Okay, this is a bit of a cheat because I do this every time I write. EVERY TIME. But really, try it. You will feel freer without yesterday’s words and ideas tethering you. Maybe also consider starting from a completely different place in your story or novel. Who said you have to write chronologically?
  2. Find the plot I write first, ask questions later. Which is great to get a word count and to have the story flying but often the dreaded plot wall happens. This is terrible if you are penning a longer work like a novel or novella. Try an outline. Really, try it. I hate index cards. Hate. Them. But do what feels right to you: whether that is something super organised or a mind map.
  3. Skeleton The first draft doesn’t have to be organ meat and flesh. It can be small scenes, vignettes, notes–as long as it gets you to the end. Writing in chunks is a-okay. If you’re stuck on something, stop it. Move to a new scene or character and write a chunk, then another chunk.
  4. Get to know your characters Traditional character sketches have never been my bag (gag me with a spoon), but I’ve come around to character sketches, in a sense, during a recent plot wall. It let me think clearly about the plot and negotiate certain scenes. I asked myself questions about the characters and tried to answer them the best I could in regards to the story, plot and how they relate to the other characters.
  5. Sprints Block off a day or half-day and dedicate it to writing. It doesn’t have to be good writing or anything like that, but set a target (word count, chapter, plot outline, character sketches) and write in sprints. You’ll be amazed how much you get done and how much you don’t care if it’s ‘good’ or ‘bad’ writing. It will be writing! As an example: write for 30 minutes, take a 10 minute break. 30 minutes, 10 minute break, so on and so forth. Adjust as necessary. If you have an accountability friend to sprint with you, the more the merrier.

I’ll write more about Find the plot and Get to know your characters, but hopefully, this will help break that plot wall. If you missed it, also 5 Writing Tools for That Writing Project.

Do you have any recommendations for breaking the dreaded plot wall?

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

5 Writing Tools for That Writing Project

writing tools

Lockdown life has been a difficult time for so many reasons for everyone. At the beginning, concentration was a rare bird and I was happy to find a Netflix series I could bare to watch.

But reading and writing has returned for me, and I think it has for a lot of other people as well. During this time, beginners have also turned to writing. So for both those newbies and those longtime veterans who may feel stuck, I’m offering suggestions for the writing tools that I use that help me bash out thousands of words.

These recs are also either free or low cost, so hopefully something or a mix can be within everyone’s reach.

  1. Scrivener: This is the classic writing tool for writers. It is powerful software that can be used for all sorts of projects: book length and short story manuscripts, scripts, dissertations, you name it. I also use it for multiple drafts of articles and all sorts of editorial projects. Find what you need it for and don’t get bogged down in all of its super powers. £/$ – Free Trial available
  2. Scapple: Mind mapping. A recent find. When your notebook doesn’t cut it anymore. £/$ – Free Trial available
  3. OmmWriter: Elegant distraction-free writer. My favourite part about this is the typewriter key sounds every time you type. You can make it silent, have ambient sounds, different keystrokes or a combo. It’s a simple word processor with no grammar/spell-check and I always have a high word count when using it. £/$ – Interactive demo available
  4. Pure Writer: This is another distraction-free writer, but with a bit more oomph. I also have a Chromebook that I use when travelling around (travel–how novel). As much as I love my Chromebook, it doesn’t support Scrivener. So I need something similar as Google Docs (or the like) just doesn’t cut it for me when it comes to creative writing. It allows you to organise much like Scrivener but is a simple text editor. There is also a note taking aspect. I set the typewriter feature which greys out all previous lines, which allows me to only focus on the present. FREE (there is an upgrade, but for now, the Free version is fine for me)
  5. Writers’ HQ: This is not software, but an excellent resource that I found during the lockdown period. During the best of times, they run in-person retreats to motivate writers towards their targets, but these past weeks, they’ve hosted free online writing retreats. I highly recommend these. I’ve written thousands of [messy] words but I’ve still written more than on my own. Also, WHQ has many other resources that they have thrown online. Free resources (if you have the cash to spare they also have monthly or annual memberships)

Are there any tools you use for creative writing and productivity?

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

ALERT! SHIRLEY Trailer

The official trailer for Shirley, the new film releasing everywhere on VOD on June 5, is available. For the love of all that is Shirley Jackson, watch it, watch it again, mark June 5 on your calendar, read some tarot and wonder who those 14 people are that put a thumbs down on this trailer on YouTube.

Which spells could we possible curse them with?

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Things That I Like Right Now: The Podcast Edition

girl audio unsplash photo

It might appear a bit upbeat to choose such a colourful photo, but I figured a little whimsical joy would benefit us all. But don’t you worry! These three podcasts that I’ve been totally digging during lockdown are dark and spooky, and at times, downright horrifying.


Shedunnit

shedunnit-artwork-300x300-1

This is the podcast we all need right now. Host Caroline Crampton’s voice alone is making this strange dystopian nightmare of real life a little bit easier to get through. According to its tagline it is “the podcast that unravels the mysteries behind classic detective stories.” I’ve always thought that people with a rosy nostalgic look of decades past were a bit sideways in their thinking and many of these episodes prove it. So many people of the last century were up to no good with conspiracy and poisonings galore. There was plenty of real life fodder for Agatha Christie and her compatriots to pluck from when penning their page turners. With 36 episodes and counting to choose from, simply start from the beginning and you won’t be disappointed.

Root of Evil

show.159.audioart.original.d67jr

Perhaps, I am alone in this but I always maintained that I would never consume anything more about the Black Dahlia case. That was until a friend sent a recommendation about this podcast. I read the description and was still immensely sceptical. I find what was done to Elizabeth Short beyond horrifying and even though it was committed over half a century ago, it still scares me, sending chills down my spine. However, this is one wild and frightening ride. It makes a beyond convincing case for who the murderer was (the police at the time also had their sites on this person) and it also interviews the family members, who were traumatised in the aftermath. It is a truly Gothic horror.

Verified

image

This is a monster story if there ever was one. The Italian justice system is a notoriously baffling and inconsistent one, and it doesn’t disappointment. When a serial rapist preys on tourist women in the city of Padua it is up to the women themselves, along with dogged Italian journalists, to catch him. He is slick and often evades punishment. The storytelling evokes anxiety in this real life penny dreadful.


Even though these 3 have different projects, they all have gripping narratives, evocative storytellers and wind through the world of dark tales.

What are you listening these days?

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Newsletter Sign Up

newsletter1

It’s been awhile since I did a call for my newsletter. I am planning to ramp it up with some interesting curiosities, books, articles and notes. I’ve been making a list! It’s as easy as popping your email address into my GDPR compliant sign up form right over here.

Please leave a comment if there are any topics you would like more of, too. Things have been very quiet lately. I suffer from chronic migraine which is a very unpleasant condition, but I am hoping to find some good days ahead to satiate my curiosities. If you’re feeling particularly generous, check out my ko-fi page (even if it’s simply for a gander).

I hope everyone is as happy and healthy as one can be during this strange time. If you are finding an interesting way to keep busy or sparking creativity, please leave a comment, too.

[Sublime Horror] Upstairs’ downfall: The decline, death and afterlife of the English country house in five ghost stories

sublimehorror

Sitting printed out in my stack of unread articles has been “Upstairs’ downfall: The decline, death and afterlife of the English country house in five ghost stories” by Lewis Hurst at Sublime Horror.

With the London gloom and the chilly air, I have finally had a chance to bundle up and find a quiet moment to read through it. It was a pleasure to learn of five new ghost stories that were not on my radar; especially ones touching on crumbling greatness.

I am currently reading Sarah Waters’ The Little Stranger so it is perfect timing for this supplementary article.

Subscribe to NewsletterSubscribe

Ruth Ware’s The Turn of The Key

 

The recent autumn issue of Mystery Scene Magazine brings my review of Ruth Ware’s newest novel The Turn of the KeyIt’s a clear homage to Gothic fiction, most notably The Turn of the Screw by Henry James (but so much more delightful).

Dare I say: it might be my favourite Ruth Ware novel so far. It has the double pleasure of being both a Gothic send up and an epistolary novel, something I am especially a sucker for.

In her most recent page turner, Ware is becoming more adept as a writer and I am keen to see what her next brings.

The Turn of the Key is a suspenseful blend of modern thrills with a layer of classic horror.

Subscribe to NewsletterSubscribe

“the princess who thought she was made of glass”

glass princess

My recent historical dive obsession this week has been Princess Alexandra of Bavaria who suffered from the “glass delusion,” a delusion in which the suffer thought they were in some way composed of glass.

At some point in young adulthood, she became convinced that she had swallowed a glass piano as a child. BBC – Culture did a write up last week about the historical context and mentioned the stage play I will soon see based on Princess Alexandra.

From BBC – Culture:

The glass delusion was well-known enough to crop up briefly in Robert Burton’s The Anatomy of Melancholy in 1612, in a long passage of paranoid anxieties: “Fear of devils, death, that they shall be so sick, of some such or such disease, ready to tremble at every object… that they are all glass, and therefore will suffer no man to come near them.”

 

 

*THIS POST INCLUDES AN AFFILIATED LINK TO SUPPORT GOOD WRITING.

When I Arrived at the Castle by Emily Carroll

when i arrived at the castle

I’ve recently been made aware of the concept of working in smaller chunks of time or in small chunks of project with little rewards at the end of small chunks. This is meant to ease that feeling of becoming overwhelmed and counter-productively not finishing anything. It is a bit of difficult task with it being much easier said than done (next personal struggle to tackle is the fact that not everything has to be perfect the first time around).

But anywho, I ordered Emily Carroll’s newest graphic novel When I Arrived at the Castle as a little treat for myself while finishing up this extended project that I have been the one unhappily extending.

Description via Goodreads:

Like many before her that have never come back, she’s made it to the Countess’ castle determined to snuff out the horror, but she could never be prepared for what hides within its turrets; what unfurls under its fluttering flags. Emily Carroll has fashioned a rich gothic horror charged with eroticism that doesn’t just make your skin crawl, it crawls into it.

 

*This post includes an affiliated link to support good writing.