All posts by DawnB

Good night, right brain. Good morning, left brain.

You’ve finished your manuscript. Congratulations. I hope you gave yourself a break, at least a day, and treated yourself to something (sleep?).

Seriously, do give yourself a reward. You deserve it. Really! You’ve done what a lot of people only dream about.

After that treat — be it a chocolate sundae (my favorite), a new shirt, a nap (also a favorite), a walk around the mall, a new book, half an hour of uninterrupted tv watching, or whatever — then it will be time to get down to the real work. You should wait until the next day to begin editing at least so that you have time to detach from the work.

The point is that you need a break to calm the active imagination portion of your brain so that you can think logically and make sure your book is lined out well — that’s the left brain’s job.

Hopefully you’ve made a list of notes of things that need to be fixed in the story. If so, it’s a good idea to review those now. If this is your first book or even second, I highly recommend going back and writing a one – two page synopsis of your story. For those of you who don’t know what a synopsis is, it’s a summary of your story which tells a publisher what’s going to happen in the book. For our purposes though, a publisher will never see this version. It doesn’t matter if your copy is single or double spaced. Reveal all the details. This is meant for your eyes only. This is your road map for editing.

Don’t force yourself to try to remember everything in the story. Skim through the manuscript to see what happens. That way you can see if it has a beginning, middle, and end. If it ends up being a series of events rather than a character’s struggle to reach a goal, you have a problem. It means the plot of your story isn’t mature enough yet and you need to rethink what danger your character is facing and why it matters to your character.

There’s an excellent book by James Frey called The Key. He takes the heroic structure of story based on Joseph Campbell’s work and sets it into an easy to understand format. You can follow him along as he sets up a story using the hero’s journey.

I’m sure I said before that I don’t plot out my books using an outline. I do however use the hero’s journey to give my story structure. This usually happens when I’m writing the story. If I trust the process, I will come to a point at which I want to understand the direction I’m going. I have a sheet worked up with the hero’s journey lined out on it. I’ve attached a PDF of the file I use — you’ll probably want to create your own in your word processing program so you can easily edit it — just always to remember to save it with a different file name so you don’t overwrite your master file (not that it’s hard to recreate).

I know a lot of people who recommend putting the manuscript away for at least three months and working on a new manuscript during this time. I’ve never been someone who can do that. Even if you do decide to put the story aside for a while, you should at least write the synopsis before you do.

Keep working at this until your synopsis confirms that your story is strong.

Happy writing!

Dragons of Wellsdeep – page 1 edit

Dragons of Wellsdeep_pg1_Dawn Blair  Dragons of Wellsdeep_pg1_edited_Dawn Blair

The draft on top is the original draft as it has been written. On the bottom is my edit draft with my handwritten comments.

This scene is completely written in an omnipotent point of view. That is to say that it’s like a ghostly spirit is hanging around watching the scene — the fly on the wall, so to speak. It’s fine to start a scene that way, but, as you’ll see next week when we discuss page 2, it gets to needing a point of view very quickly. Why? Because in omnipotent point of view, it is possible to have everyone’s thoughts (being in the head of every character) all at once or truly being the disembodied spirit and being in no one’s thoughts but the spirits. Too many writers use omnipotent point of view and in my opinion they do it incorrectly. Thoughts are everywhere. I will give more details in the blog later as it’s too lengthy to discuss now.

This scene also needs far more description than it has. It’s fast and some description will help slow this scene down and ground the characters into it. Showing it from one character’s point of view will also help. I find that if one character is thinking about what’s going on rather than the floating spirit, it gets richer and deeper in being able to filter the scene through the character’s life experience. When you’re god, you know everything and all, so it’s hard to really be able to shade things emotionally as good or bad. The event just is what it is.

More description, like in illustrating how the priestesses are dressed, will tell if they were ready for this birthing or not. Little details can show so much about the story.

Go back through the page and read the proposed changes. How would you incorporate changes? What would you do? Do you see something I missed. Comment below. Then we can have fun and see how the page develops into the second draft together.

Finish Well

You’ve gotten started with your manuscript and you understand the obstacles which your character(s) face.  Now what? You’ve got to finish the manuscript.

As I said in the sample for Dragons of Wellsdeep, I wouldn’t even start editing until I finish the manuscript (under ordinary circumstances, which these edited pages are not). Don’t be surprised if your second story wants to be written in a different way than you wrote the first. Each story is unique and comes into this world however and whenever they want. For my Sacred Knight series, I use a free scripting program called Celtx where I just write the dialog and action in my first draft. The Loki Adventures is written in Microsoft Word. I’ve had to hand write some manuscripts. Others I’ve done on a typewriter. As I said in my earlier post, the equipment doesn’t matter. Just get started. Let the process tell you what you need to do.

But here’s what I don’t want you to do, especially if this is your first manuscript: don’t go back and re-read your writing from the beginning. All you’ll do is find things wrong with it. Your left-brained critic will jump all over it. Or you’ll see things you need to fix and you’ll just take a moment to do that; then you’ve wasted energy and won’t be going any further. This is a sure-fire way to make sure you get stuck in the mud. So don’t do it!

If you think you need to check something, make a note. You can do this easily enough in most word processing programs or with a simple sticky note marking the page. Or dog-ear it and highlight. Just don’t go back. You need to get through the story. Fixing it will come later. I promise.

*** I will note here that I will stop and chuck scenes, chapters, or the whole damn book if it feels wrong, but I’ve spent enough time learning to trust the process that I know in my gut when it’s not working. Do not expect this if you’re working on your first manuscript. It will develop over time. Be patient. If you’ve gotten several manuscripts under your belt and the process is telling you that you’re getting bogged down, you probably are. Go back to where it last felt right and go forward again. Don’t delete anything you’ve written! Duplicate a chapter and rename it with OLD if you need to, start a new draft of your manuscript (I designate my files with d1 or d2, etc. for draft 1 or draft 2 or whatever draft I’m on). Just make sure you’re on the right file. I know I’ve written scenes, tossed them out, then decided that they fit in a different spot so I’ve had to go get them out of another version of my work.  Don’t delete or overwrite files. If space is tight on your computer system (why aren’t you saving to the cloud already?) then buy a flash drive; they have become so inexpensive and is a lot cheaper than having to spend time recreating a scene which will never be right in you mind that second time around.***

I’ve seen stats that say that something like 81% of the population wants to write a book.Out of that 81%, only 7% will actually sit down to do it. From that 7%, only 3% will finish. All the rest give up. Finish the manuscript. Get to the end. It doesn’t count until you pass that finish line. Get it done. Only once you have the whole story out can you know what it’s about and what you need to do to start fixing it. The real work is about to begin, so go treat yourself with a reward. You deserve it.

Dragons of Wellsdeep- prologue- page 2 edit

Dragons of Wellsdeep_Prologue_Dawn Blair-2Dragons of Wellsdeep_Prologue_Dawn Blair-2_edit

About my page 2 edits:

My word clusters continue on this page. In fact, I think they are growing.

The sentences with * at the end indicate that I have a “was” in the sentence. I’ve also put a square around the little offensive word. Don’t worry — I will get around to writing my blog post(s) about why I dislike “was” so much. And yes, it is possible to write without using “was.”

I’ve also marked areas that have bumped me or where I want more. I’ve even been critiquing like I’ve been working on someone else’s story (“Can you show this more?” and “Bumped me.”) I like to imagine this as my left brain talking to my right brain.

Based on this page, I really do think that it will grow in size as I work more material into it.

On this page, my point of view (pov) is really setting in; it’s the thing in the water’s point of view. But I’m not deep enough in the character’s head. That’s part of my call for MORE! I should at least try imagining this from the little boy’s point of view, just to see if the story can carry it. I personally don’t think it can; it just wouldn’t have the same suspense. The reader needs to fear for the little boy. Therefore, it has to be the well-dweller’s point of view.

I’ve also written far enough into the story as I’m posting this, that I know I have a change. Yes, as you review the first draft (after having it all completed) you will see things that you need to change and correct. I just know from the pages I’ve already written that I didn’t like the idea of a dragon (yes, the thing in the well is a dragon) returning to spawn where it was hatched. It’s a fair idea as it stands, but it doesn’t work for my story and I’ll be taking it out. I think.

Note your suggestions in the comments below.


What is a story?

We all tell stories every day. We hope to captivate our listeners into having an emotional response; for example when we are telling our children about how we received a special letter of recommendation for a job well done,  we hope our children will feel pride in us. Or we gossip, hoping to turn the listener to discrediting any value they previously put into the person who is the object of our conversation. Negative stories generally hit the news faster than anything and people are all too eager to share bad things that happen in their day.

Why is this?

Because deep at heart, we are always trying to portray ourselves as a hero. We are the center of our story. It’s us against the world. If we can rally others to our way of thinking, we can become leaders. Get enough followers and you will be a great leader. Even horrible news stories, are at a deep and usually unspoken level, about the people that survived, got through it, and won the day. The dead tell no tales. It’s true that history is written by the victors. No one wants to hear from those that lost.

But what makes a good fictional story?

A fiction story is all about how a character faces danger. Danger doesn’t have to be life threatening. Danger can be a spouse having an affair, where a wife (and hero of our story) fears that she will be out on the street if her husband leaves her.

For more examples and a deeper discussion of story, check out my book, The Write Edit.

How is your character facing danger? What do they have to lose and what do they think will happen if they lose it?

Dragons of Wellsdeep- Prologue- page 1 edit

Dragons of Wellsdeep_Prologue_Dawn Blair-1   Dragons of Wellsdeep_Prologue_Dawn Blair-1_edit


The draft on top is the original draft as it has been written. On the bottom is my draft with my handwritten comments.

I’m going to say right from the start that I’m very nervous about this. The reason I say that is because I really don’t know if I will get 50 pages into this and have to scrap it all. For my Sacred Knight series, I wrote the manuscript for The Three Books a billion times (no, really, I think it was close to a billion!). It started off as a historical romance, then changed to a fantasy romance. When everyone was telling me it was fantasy cake with romance icing, I moved it to be a pure fantasy, keeping the romance as a teaser. I quickly realized that I didn’t belong in the fantasy genre because I hated the minuscule details the current writers were using — 40 pages to describe a tree, really?!!! I wanted action! At this point, all my writing friends were laughing at me and saying that I should enter a first chapter contest with all my chapters and go with whatever one won. Ha, ha. I tried the fantasy romance again and failed. Depressed, I went to the library where I found Bruce Coville. His book, Eyes of the Tarot, probably saved my life.  I began devouring young adult books at this point and changed Steigan’s story to be a young adult story. Then I went through a difficult season with my writing and I changed it to be a graphic novel. Not being able to finish it fast enough drove me back to writing it as a young adult.

So, I’m nervous about showing an edit so early on. The story could easily spin around on me several chapters in. I’m use to scrapping chapters and starting all over if I think something else needs to be done. That’s how I work. I’ve telling myself that it’s going to be okay here, that the reason for you reading this blog is because you want to know how writers write their books. You might very well see the full agonizing process (one that I wouldn’t trade for the world!) and we might have to start all over again. Here we go.

So here’s the first page. In critiquing it for edits that need to be made, I see that I have a lot of white space right off. That usually means you’re going too fast. I hate (HATE, HATE, HATE) the word “was” in first paragraphs. Thank goodness this is only a draft. It will be fixed before publication. But, it’s a good example of just getting it down on paper. The words can always be fixed.

Now, I have this creature down in the well, so I have to do something to describe the scene. I start thinking about something like a magic mirror spell on the surface of the water, but being looked at from below. Have you ever been submersed in a swimming pool at looked up at people walking around the pool or at the sky? Yeah, that’s what needs to be added, something like that.

Since this little boy is dipping the bucket into the well, it seems it has no depth. If that’s the case, I need to do a better job of explaining. Or, I need to show a bucket being lowered down into the well.  I do have a point of view shift (pov) to the boy as he notices something in the water. I’m really not feeling grounded in my point of view here, which is actually something more we’ll discuss on the next page.

I have a lot of similar words. I start circling them and mapping them out so I can see where they are on the page. My goal when I edit them will be to reduce these by at least half. I also have that weird “look,” “see,” “seen” sentence. Not sure what that needs to be at this point, but I’ve marked it.

I have similar sentence structures underlined too: “I waited,” “I watched,” “I smiled,” “I said” as I’m hoping when I slow down the narrative a lot of these will be re-worded.

I feel like I’m putting the cart before the horse here. Editing is not something I would normally even begin until I had completed the first draft and I knew the story was solid. However, for the sake of showing the process, I will put an edited page here, just not right now as I’ve already put more editing comments on this that I thought would be there. Plus, I want to figure out how to effectively run it through the blog.

Go back through the page and read the proposed changes. How would you incorporate changes? What would you do? Do you see something I missed. Comment below. Then we can have fun and see how the page develops into the second draft together.

Get started

I thought we’d play a little game to get the ball rolling. Shall we begin?

What’s the most important part of writing?

Quick, think of your answer! Five — four — three — two — one. What’s your answer?

Did you say, “Having an idea?” Or what about a character? Do you need that to start writing? Maybe you think you need a computer. Word processing software. Oh, oh, what about a program like First Draft which will help you develop your plot. That’s a must-have, right?

Or is it about putting your butt in the chair and doing the work? Half-an-hour or more of uninterrupted time to yourself to think? What is the most important thing?

I’m might surprise you here — you don’t need any of that. None!

It’s great to have an idea for a story or, as what often happens to me, a character that you want to write about, but people write non-fiction based on something they know everyday, so those things aren’t necessary to write. You can write on a computer, or with a typewriter, or with a pen and paper. You can write on a voice recorder and have someone transcribe it later. So there is no required hardware. There is no need for fancy software either. So, the answer must be in making the time, right? Nope! I’ve written standing up in the line at the supermarket, and I’ve used both my smartphone and pencil and paper to do this several times. I often spend 10-15 minutes writing in the morning before I get ready for the Day Job. I’ve recorded passages for my book while driving to work — one of the reasons I always take the country roads to work instead of the highway. The phone just sits on the seat beside me while I yammer and drive along at 50 miles per hour.  I can’t imagine trying to do this at 80 with so many other people on the road. After all, you never drive just for yourself, but for everyone else on the road too! (Great advise my father gave me a long time ago and I think more people need to hear. Speech over.)

So what’s the most important part of writing?

Getting the words down. It doesn’t matter what you write, fiction or non-fiction, the most important is getting it out of your brain onto something that you can edit later. Nothing matters until you get started.

Here’s a little experiment I’m going to run:

I have a story titled The Dragons of Wellsdeep and I’m currently writing it. Each week, I’ll post one page from the story and we’ll edit it. I have no idea where the story is going — it’s not that well developed. I’m just writing and trusting the process. We’ll build this story from the ground up. Normally, I would write the whole manuscript before going back and editing, but for the sake of giving good examples for you to learn from, you’ll share this journey with me. I might end up getting several chapters in and end up scrapping the whole thing because it isn’t working. We’ll see. But I have faith in the process and I’m being led to share this journey with you in this fashion.

Here’s our schedule:

On Thursdays, I’ll release a blog post about writing or editing to help you with the process. Here’s where I will edit someone else’s work or answer a question from you (find out how to submit your work or your question here). Don’t be shy. Anything you submit will help someone else too.

On Sundays, I’ll release the page for The Dragons of Wellsdeep as well as my current thoughts about the manuscript and potential edits I will make. Your comments are welcomed too.

Let’s get started, shall we?


My Mission

I want to read fiction again.

I want to make you a better writer.

These are my reasons for writing this blog.

See, we’ve gotten to a day and age where editors no longer groom their writers like they once did. They expect writers to already know how to write by the time they approach an editor. But editors are busy in meetings trying to sell the books they like to the publishing house that they pass on the task of actually reading the manuscript to assistants. Everyone is looking for the next best-SELLING author. Even the authors themselves want to sell.

It’s a travesty that no one wants to learn their craft anymore.

As a result, I put many promising books down after reading the first paragraph. Yes, in one paragraph I can tell if you have studied writing at all, if you’ve ever had a teacher or critique partner that really made you get into how you put words on a page other than just slapping them down.

I want to enjoy fiction again, like I once did before I really learned my craft. Now when I read fiction, I get so tripped up over the writing that I can’t follow the story. I want to grab my red pen and show the author how to do it better. You’ll get there too. (That’s a warning: if you want to remain a reader, go no further on this blog. But do me a favor and never write anything ever again. It’s okay to be a reader. We need people who just read. But if you honestly look at me and say that you can’t stop writing, that it’s a creative fire in your veins, then listen to my advice well and make yourself a better writer. You will, unfortunately, probably not be able to read most of the horrendous things being published today though.)

There has also been a belief come out in today’s world that it’s better to be a best-selling author than a best-writing author. I dislike this mentality. You should still know your craft, know how to tell a good story. It’s okay if you don’t know everything. It’s okay to get your story out into the world even if it’s not perfect. It never will be perfect in your eyes. But, it should be worthy of someone’s time to read it.

I’ve judged contests on local, state, and national levels. If you’ve been on the end of one of my critiques, chances are that my comments have stung a bit. I have a belief that “warm fuzzies” help no one. I want you to get better. I want you to improve your writing. (Find out how here)

I wrote a book called The Write Edit based on things about writing that I learned while judging these contests. But throwing your baby out in the world doesn’t guarantee success. I though authors would flock to it when I told them what I could do for them. However, as I even illustrate in the book, there is a big difference between telling your story and showing you story. It’s time I quit telling you about my awesome editing book and show you why you need it.

Then, in return, I hope you write an awesome piece of fiction that I can read and enjoy.

Shall we begin?