Why The First Draft Is Easy

So, I mentioned yesterday that the first draft is probably the easiest part of writing. I mean, it’s hard because the blank page can be mocking and it’s hard to even get started. But I think the first draft is the easiest part of the whole writing process for a few different reasons.

Why the first draft is easy | novel writing | creative writing | RachelPoli.com

You’re Telling Yourself The Story

Who else is better to tell your story than you? Everyone has a story – fiction or nonfiction. Yes, it’s hard to get started, but once you do, the words can easily flow from the page. Being able to follow your imagination and letting your creativity go free is one of the easiest things you can do – as long as you allow yourself to let loose. Yes, we all get creative blocks, but those can be easily dealt with.

It’s Supposed To Suck

No one publishes their first draft. If they do, then it either didn’t sell well or they write like a God. So, allow yourself to write awful. Whatever ideas come to your mind, just write them down and use them. They may not stick, but at least you tried and new ideas may come from them. Ideas stem from other ideas, good or bad. When you allow yourself to write bad, the first draft can be so easy because your fingers just keep typing away at the keyboard.

I’d say don’t bother to edit or fix typos either, but… that bothers me too, so…

There Are No Rules

Whatever rules are in place, they were meant to be broken. Yes, there are rules to writing. Grammar is important. However, there are no rules to tell a story. Tell your story how you want. There will be people who tell you you’re doing it “wrong” or they don’t approve. In the end, it’s their opinion. You tell the story you want it be told… just, you know, make sure it makes sense.

Do you agree with me? Let me know in the comments below. If you enjoyed this post, please share it around!

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What Exactly Is The First Draft?

The first draft is something everyone seems to dread. How do you start? How long will it take? The blank page can really take a toll on you and your creativity. But what exactly is the first draft? What does it mean? There’s a lot more to first drafts than we give them credit for.

What is the first draft | creative writing | Novel writing | writing tips | writing advice | RachelPoli.com

What is the first draft?

It is, more or less, what it sounds like. It’s the very first draft of an idea. It’s out of your head and now it’s on paper. Except, a lot of people seem to think that the first draft is the hard part. And it is for some, but it all comes down to this: the first draft is just you telling yourself the story.

There’s no right or wrong. There’s no need to edit. There’s no need to get it all perfect the first time. Some elements of the first draft may stay, but most of it may get edited out later. You’re just beginning your journey, getting to know your characters, and getting a feel for your plot. As you write the first draft, you’ll get new ideas. You’ll find plot holes. You may realize one character has a larger purpose than you originally intended.

Do I have to write a first draft?

Uh, yeah? I mean, if you don’t write a first draft, then you’ll never start. Unless you’re a master procrastinator and don’t want to start, then no. Don’t bother writing that first draft.

Does the first draft have to be complete?

No, I don’t think so. I have a few novels on their x-amount of drafts and there are a few of them where the first draft isn’t complete. It definitely helps if the first draft is completed so you have a well thought out plot or novel. Even if it’s all gibberish. However, I sometimes don’t have the inspiration to finish the first draft. By the time I get to the end or even sometimes the middle, the characters are so vastly different and my ideas for the plot no longer make sense with what I originally started off with. So, I leave the first draft as is and start on my second draft without even bothering to edit. It’s like draft 1.5.

The first draft is the best draft.

Why? Because it helps you get started. And I think we all know that getting started is the hardest step of anything.

What do first drafts mean to you? Let me know in the comments below. If you enjoyed this post, please share it around!

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My Short Story Writing Process

When it comes to writing, we all have our routines and special ways of doing things. Writing short stories is no different. I go about writing a novel a certain way and when it comes to writing short stories, I have a slightly different approach.

My Short Story Writing Process | Creative Writing | Writing | Short Story Writing | Writing Short Stories | Blogging | RachelPoli.com

The Idea

Ideas are all around us, but when it comes to writing short stories I tend to go along with certain writing prompts – some I get from the Internet and others I come up with on my own. When I write a novel, I typically outline it before I begin writing the first draft. When I write short stories, I just come up with the idea and roll with it. I like to see where the words and characters take me.

The First Draft

When it comes to writing a novel, I can’t write the first draft or any draft in one sitting. With short stories, I write the first draft in one sitting. There are times when I need to stop in the middle of the draft, but I prefer to sit down and bang out all the words at once. My short stories are typically under 10,000 words and I can usually write about 2,000 words in one hour. If I can get all my ideas out at once, that’s what I aim for.

Editing

Once I finish the first draft, I let it rest for a day or two. Then I jump into the editing. Depending on the length of the short story, the editing doesn’t typically take me too long. I usually edit a draft or two before I decide it’s ready to either go on the blog, send to me Patrons on Patreon, or possibly submit someplace.

All Done

That’s pretty much to it. It’s more or less the same as when I write a novel or novella, but the process is shorter. I find it easier to work with short stories because I’m able to write them in one sitting and I can let my mind focus on it for a while.

What’s your short story writing process look like? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. If you liked this post, please share it around.

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Writing Is Like… Teaching

Writing is a creative activity and it takes a lot of thought, hard work, and most of all, imagination. But there are a lot of things we do in life that prepare us or aid us in other things. Writing is one of those things. With the research and growing we do as writers and readers, we can do anything. However, there are plenty of things we do in real life that help us with our writing.

Writing Is Like Teaching | Creative Writing | Blogging | RachelPoli.com

Writing is so much like teaching. You, as the writer, is like the teacher. You’re teaching your readers and your characters a plethora of things. These things can be real life skills, life lessons, or simply something fictional.

Research

No matter whether you outline or not and no matter what genre you write in, most likely you’ll have to do some research. Even if you’re writing a fictional story, there’s always a little bit of truth to some of it. Whether your readers know it or not, they’re learning something and you’re teaching yourself a little something as well.

If you’re writing nonfiction like writing craft or a biography, then a lot of research goes into writing that. Readers read those genres because they want to learn.

Life Skills

What are some things we learn in English class at school? We learn how to write essays – grammar, punctuation, pacing, etc. We also learn how to read and analyze stories. At the time, it’s not a skill I thought I would ever need. I mean, I just want to read stories and enjoy them, you know? However, as a writer, reading is something that definitely helps to learn what other writers have done.

We also learn to critique and take feedback. Giving feedback isn’t easy but receiving it is even harder. We learn to get some thick skin and by giving feedback to others, you learn a lot about yourself as well.

Life Lessons

We learn a lot from writing and reading. I know reading books such as Harry Potter and The Lord of The Rings has taught me a lot. Each character has a purpose, a will of life, and the realistic themes of the overall books are true to life that we can all relate to. We’ve learned from our favorite characters and will remember it forever.

Overall, writing is like teaching. You as the writer teach yourself a lot and your readers will learn alongside you.

What are some ways writing reminds you of teaching? Does it remind you of anything else? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. If you liked this post, please share it around.

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Character Asks: Valentine’s Day Edition

I’ve decided to do something a little different on the blog this time around. I may even turn this into some sort of feature down the line. I’ve done book tags and writer tags in the past, but I’ve never done a character tag before. I used to interview my characters long ago way before I even started my blog. I enjoy getting to know my characters more though and thought it would be fun to create a new tag for characters. This time it’s Character Asks: Valentine’s Day Edition.

Character Asks: Valentine's Day Edition | Writer Tag | Book Tag | Character Tag | Character Interview | Writing Asks | Creative Writing | RachelPoli.com

George Florence & The Perfect Alibi

I’m juggling a lot of WIPs right now so, for this particular one I’m going to focus on the characters from my mystery novel, George Florence & The Perfect Alibi. These characters are the most developed and I have a lot of fun with them.

Is your main character single? If so, who would they spend Valentine’s Day with?

All of my characters are single except for Ebony, George’s older sister. With that said, George and Lilah would most likely spend the day together. Then again, they spend every day together. However, George would probably want to keep working throughout the day.

Do any of your characters have a crush?

As of right now, no. I do have plans for Lilah to develop a crush on a certain someone later in the series, but in book one, no. No one has any crushes on anyone else.

What’s the perfect date for your main character?

George would want to stay in and watch a movie or go for a nice walk in the park. He wouldn’t want to do anything too fancy but he’d want to get to know her as well. Lilah, on the other hand, would want to go out to eat – probably for burgers. But if she met someone who planned something simple, she wouldn’t mind.

Which character would go to Valentine’s Day dinner alone?

Caleb. He would probably order dinner for two and then pretend he got stood up. He’d get extra food and possibly a discount on the bill if his sob story was hardcore enough.

Which character hates Valentine’s Day?

George. There is a reason for this, but it would be spoilers for book two.

What turns your main character on?

Logical thinking turns George on. He gets very impressed and wants to give that person puzzles to solve or to help out on an investigation. Lilah doesn’t have too high of standards. If a man gives her coffee, she’s sold.

Which character just wants the candy?

Lilah. And probably Caleb.

Does your character feel as though they need a date for Valentine’s Day?

No. None of them really care too much about Valentine’s Day so none of them have a need to go out and celebrate. This isn’t just because their single either. George has his reasons, but Lilah believes every day is a good day to show friends, family, and significant others that you love them.

Which character would participate in something Valentine’s Day related for the sake of celebrating a holiday?

Caleb… probably to get that free candy!

Which character would take their best friend out?

George or Caleb. (Seriously, Caleb has become a much bigger part of the series than I originally meant for him to be.) George would do something special for Lilah as a thank you for all her help, but that’s it. It would just be the nice gesture. Caleb would gladly take Lilah out if it was something she truly wanted. They’ve developed a hardcore friendship with each other. Caleb would also fake being Lilah’s boyfriend if it was needed for whatever reason.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this character ask. Feel free to answer these questions with your own characters and WIPs. If you do, please link back to this post as well as let me know you participated. I’d love to see some other answers!

Can you answer these with some of your characters? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. If you liked this post, please share it around.

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Warriors: Omen Of The Stars: Fading Echoes By Erin Hunter [Book Review]

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Book Review: Warriors: Fading Echoes | Omen of the stars book 2 | middle grade | fantasy | reading | book blogger | blogging | RachelPoli.com

I bought a hardcover of the book a long time ago.

Summary:


After the sharp-eyed Jay and the roaring Lion, peace will come on Dove’s gentle wing.

Three ThunderClan cats, Jayfeather, Lionblaze, and Dovepaw, are prophesied to hold the power of the stars in their paws. Now they must work together to unravel the meaning behind the ancient words of the prophecy.

As Jayfeather tackles his new responsibilities as the Clan’s sole medicine cat and Lionblaze trains his apprentice in the ways of the warrior cats, Dovepaw hones her own unique ability and tries to use it for the good of ThunderClan. But the dark shadows that have preyed on the Clan for many moons still lurk just beyond the forest. Soon a mysterious visitor will walk in one cat’s dreams, whispering promises of greatness, with results that will change the future of ThunderClan in ways that no cat could have foreseen.

My Review:

Book Cover | RachelPoli.com

As usual, the cover is simple. It showcases one cat that will be important to the story. Sometimes this is obvious to me which cat it is and other times it isn’t. Still, I like it.

First Thoughts | RachelPoli.com

Warriors is a series that I’ve been reading as a kid. This is the second book in the Omen of the Stars series, which is the fourth series of the whole thing. A lot of stuff happened in the first book and the story is getting dark, so I was certainly eager to keep reading on.

Plot | RachelPoli.com

Jayfeather, Lionblaze, and Dovepaw continue to work together to understand their powers, learn about the prophecy, and figure out what they need to do next and where they need to go. They discover Ivypaw, Dovepaw’s sister, has been training in the Dark Forest (the book’s version of Hell).

They do their best to keep moving forward but that also means keeping secrets and sneaking around, which sometimes land them into even more trouble.

I enjoyed this plot and the back and forth between Dovepaw and Ivypaw. It hurt to see the two sisters fighting so much, especially when they’re usually joint at the hip. I definitely enjoyed the dark elements of the story and this series is beginning to give me Harry Potter feels.

Characters | RachelPoli.com

I’ve always loved the characters. I have a new appreciation for Jayfeather and his snarkiness. Sometimes he could seem like just a grump, but I sympathize with everything he has to do and go through. Yellowfang plays a big part as his “mentor” in a way from StarClan (the book’s version of Heaven). She has been a character I’ve certainly missed.

Lionblaze was certainly getting arrogant but I think Cinderheart, his crush, and Dovepaw did pretty well at trying to snap him out of that.

Overall, the characters are fun to revisit in each book.

Writing Style | RachelPoli.com

This is a fast read. The book is around 300 pages, which is the typically length for these books. The chapters vary from seven pages long to 20 pages long, but each one goes fast.

Erin Hunter has a certain style of writing so that you just keep reading and going on. There are lulls here and there, but nothing too dull to get you to put down the book unless you have to.

Overall | RachelPoli.com

This was another great book to the Warriors series and I can’t wait to continue reading Omen of the Stars.

Warriors: Omen of the Stars: Fading Echoes by Erin Hunter gets…
4 out of 5 cups

Book Review Rating System | 4 Cups of Coffee | RachelPoli.com

Favorite Quote:

“He never seemed to get tired. Always first up and ready to move on. Never afraid of what lay ahead.” -Erin Hunter, Warriors: Omens of the Stars: Fading Echoes

Buy the book:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Abe Books

Have you read this book? What did you think of it? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and if you enjoyed this post, please share it around!

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5 More Outlining Methods For Your Novel

Yesterday I listed five different outlining methods for your novel. Today, I have more.

5 More Outlining Methods for your novels | creative writing | novel outlines | novel prep | RachelPoli.com

Snowflake Method

This is also known as the expanding method. You begin with an idea and simple expand on it. It’s easier said than done, but if you have ideas, it’ll fill itself in.

I personally have never used this method but I know you can go about this one two different ways. You can start at the beginning and expand upon how the story starts – getting from point A to point B. Or you can start at the end and work your way backwards if you’re unsure how to get to the end. What events could lead to the end?

Contextual

This is a slightly different kind of outline in which you don’t necessarily focus on the plot and the events leading to it, but the mechanics of the story. This means if you’re writing a story with magic in it, be sure to have your magic system worked out. This could also be different languages, cultures, and the like.

Skeletal

This is a popular outline for academic papers. I’m sure most, if not all, of you have heard of this and used it for essays in school. This is an outline that focuses on the core points of your plot. This includes the exposition, inciting incident, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution. This outlines your plot in detail breaking it up into different sections.

Visual Map

This is a fun method. You can create charts, maps, or timelines. I love using a web diagram to write one idea in the middle and then expand around it, expanding on those other ideas in the process. I mostly use that kind of map for the setting and various locations.

I’ll write the main setting in the middle and then list all the places my characters go around it. I’ll write why they go to each location in their own bubbles as well. That’s the best way this kind of outline has worked for me; especially since setting is something I personally lack at when it comes to writing.

Free Writing

Writing the first draft can be a kind of outline. We all know the first drafts aren’t going to be published. They’re guidelines for the second draft and so on. However, as you write the first draft, it doesn’t hurt to keep a list of notes. Plot ideas, characters, and even notes for editing down the road. Even if you keep a list of scenes, it’ll be easier in the long run to keep track of. Sometimes writing the actual novel is the best outline because everything is already in place and all you need to do is just move things around and look at your notes.

Do you have any other methods? Let me know in the comments below. If you liked this post, please share it around.

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5 Outlining Methods For Novels

There are so many different ways to outline your novel and everyone takes a different approach to the task. Outlining can be daunting to some while some writers look forward to the process. Sometimes, though, it’s hard to tell which method you should use on your particular novel. Here are 5 outlining methods for novels.

5 Outlining Methods for novels | creative writing | outlining a novel | novel outlines | blogging | RachelPoli.com

Brainstorming

Also known as the traditional method of outlining, brainstorming allows you to sit and really think about what’s going to happen in your novel. You can divide your novel into sections and decide what will happen when. It will help organize the structure of your novel. You can use index cards, notebook paper, or post-it notes to work out each chapter or scene or however you decide to divide it up.

From there, you can either begin writing your first draft or move onto a different outlining method.

The Synopsis

This is exactly what it sounds like. Summarize your novel. Give your novel that blurb you find on the back of books. Who are the characters and what are their goals? What’s the big idea of the story? This will give you the big picture of your novel. You can use this as an outline alone or tag it onto a different outline method.

Flashlight Method

I did not make up the name to this method but I wish I did. This is another summarizing outlining method but instead of the novel as a whole, it’s each individual chapter. Get a notebook and start with chapter one (or the prologue) and write a summary about what will happen, characters who will be introduced, any conflicts that will be shared, and all the more. Then move onto chapter two and keep going until the whole novel is done.

I personally love this method because I don’t usually get stuck. As I write the summary to one chapter I get ideas for what could happen in later chapters. I take notes and then work them all in. This method doesn’t always stick though, like more outlines. It’s just a guideline and there’s plenty of room to change and grow as you write the first draft.

Scene Map

This one is more or less the same as the flashlight method except you’re working with scenes rather than summarizing whole chapters (or the whole novel). The may be a little more work than summarizing each chapter. Multiple scenes can happen in one chapter and this narrows things down a bit more.

List or Bullet Points

Sometimes I feel like it’s easier just to make a list. I’m not even sure if this is a “legit” method with a cool name, but I do it a lot and it works for me.

I’ll divide the novel up into the parts that make it up – characters, plot points, locations, etc. For my mystery novels this also includes evidence, clues, witness statements, and the like. For characters especially, I’ll make a list of their names and basic information. I might also write a little blurb about what they contribute to the plot and story as a whole. This lays everything out for me and makes it easier when I write and I need to look up how I spelled a certain name or something.

Do you use some of these methods? Let me know in the comments below. If you liked this post, please share it around.

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How To Outline A Series

It can be hard enough to outline a single book but when it comes to writing a book series, it’s even harder. You can outline each book individually or you can outline the series as a whole. Depending on the length of the series and its genre you can choose what would work best for the project and you. So, here’s how to outline a series.

How To Outline A Series | Creative writing | writing | novel writing | outline | novel outline | RachelPoli.com

What’s the main idea?

Each book has its own main idea, central plot point, or theme. When it comes to outlining your series, you can list the main ideas for each book as well as the series as a whole. What’s the point of each book in the series and why do we need many books to get to the end of the major plot? What’s going to happen from point A to point B to keep readers buying the next book in the series?

Brainstorm these plot points

If you’re going to outline the series as a whole rather than each individual book as you write them, make a list of plot points that should happen from the beginning of book one to the end of the final book. This will help move the plot along and stretch it out for as long as the series needs to be. This will also help give you a rough idea of how many books you may need.

Summarize each book

Even though the books in the series will work together to get to a common end, each book should still have it’s own goal and plot points to be wrapped up at the end of each book. Summarizing each individual plot as well as the overall picture of the series will help keep you and the series organized. It gives each book more of a purpose and makes it more fun and entertaining.

Create a timeline

One way to help summarize each book and/or the series is to create a timeline. I’ve done that for my mystery series and it’s helped a lot. It helps keep track of the evidence and details of each case as well as dates and just the general “what happens when.” Creating a timeline is easier than it seems – well, it’s hard only if you don’t know all the information you want to fill in. There’s no wrong way to create a timeline though, which is great.

Do you outline your series as a whole or not? Let me know in the comments below. If you liked this post, please share it around.

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3 Elements To Include In Your Novel Outline

There are many things to include in a novel outline. Some writers don’t outline at all and some only outline a little bit. However, there are certain elements to include in your novel outline in order to have a thorough one.

There are five elements that go into writing a novel. Some of these elements should be included in your novel outline as a base. You can do this before you start writing and then add in all the filler and details later.

3 Elements to Include in Your Novel Outline | Creative writing | novel writing | writing tips | blogging | RachelPoli.com

1. Premise

This is the big idea of the whole novel. What’s the plot? Why is it important? What’s the protagonist’s objective? What’s the antagonist’s or villain’s objective? Conflict? There’s a lot that goes into the basic plot. All you need are some ideas for why this story needs to be told. Why will readers want to pick it up and keep reading?

2. Characters

Jot down a bare list of characters and get to know them a little bit. List the main character, the bad guys, secondary and minor characters, sidekicks, and everyone in between. Some characters may not exist yet, but it’s nice to have a list to keep track of names and physical descriptions.

3. Setting

Where does your novel take place? Where are your characters from? What are some locations your characters may visit throughout the events of the novel?

There are a lot more that should go into your novel. Major and minor plot points, scene ideas, and a lot more. However, these three elements are the basic gist of your novel. Once you figure this out, writing should – hopefully – be smooth sailing.

What are some major points you include in your novel outline? Let me know in the comments below. If you liked this post, please share it around.

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