Story Arcs

A great question came up from one of our group members and I thought the answer might be of use to other writers. What if you have short stories that you want to structure into a novel? How might you do that?

  • Get a stack of index cards.
  • Create an index card for each short piece, or any chapters that you might have as a rough draft. Give each one a summary title and a short description of the action.
  • Spread them out on a table, bed, floor, or whatever works for you, and sort them into an order that follows the story arc of a novel as shown in the diagram below. If you have an immediate idea for any gaps, fill in a new card and place it there. If nothing comes to mind, just add a card with something like, “Need a major conflict chapter here,” or “Conclusion of secondary love story goes here.”
  • Once you’re satisfied with the flow of the narrative, take a picture, or turn it into an outline, and you’re on your way.

Below is a diagram illustrating a stories arc (whether novel, novella, or short story), as well as a more detailed article on this topic.

See you on the bestsellers list!

Starter Drafts and Sprint Writing — The Perfect Combo

In my blog, Finishing Your Starter Draft is Crucial to Success, I talked about why finishing your book as a Starter Draft is key to making it as an author. But what’s the best way to write a Starter Draft?

I’m glad you asked! There are three important building blocks to writing a Starter Draft, and one tip:

1) Know what you want to write — see Outlines.

2) Write as fast as you can and don’t worry about fixing things (for now) — see Sprint Writing & Dictation.

3) Write your book start to finish over weeks or days, depending on the length of your project — see Finishing Your Starter Draft is Crucial to Success.

Finally, and most importantly, do your best to resist worrying about perfection. There’s no right or wrong within the world of creative ideas. There’s only choosing the ideas which best serve your story.

See you on the bestsellers list!

Finishing Your Starter Draft is Crucial to Success

“What? You mean the whole book, don’t you. Are you nuts? Shouldn’t I make the first three chapters perfect so I have something solid to work from?”

Nope. Because perfect has no place when you’re creating. When your book isn’t even finished, yet, slaving over having perfect dialogue, description, grammar, or just the right word, pulls you into a black hole from which you’ll never get free. Write like that, and you’ll spend the rest of your life rewriting the same three chapters.

In my opinion, that’s writer’s hell.

Which is why this blog is about finishing your entire book. As a Starter Draft


A Starter Draft is the less intimidating name I use for a first draft, or rough draft, two common terms which slowed me down for years. 

To me, First Draft implies that I’m about to be stuck in draft purgatory for the rest of my life. As in “The first of many,” and, “It will never end.”  That doesn’t sound like fun. Why would I voluntarily step into that world?

Similarly, the term, Rough Draft makes me feel judged, like I didn’t write the story correctly, and I have no right to call myself an author. In fact, what I wrote is so rough, I should be embarrassed and ashamed of myself. How dare I even create something so crude and abrasive! Again, yuck. Why even bother in the first place?

However, Starter Draft defines a completely different experience. A Starter Draft is the foundation layer, not the end result. It’s the crucial beginning of a process, created so you can take the next step, and then the next, all leading to a wonderful conclusion — a well-crafted book of which you can be proud.

Now that’s a term I can get behind.


In addition to giving yourself a foundation so you can take the next step, write the Starter Draft:

  1. Because even if you follow my recommendations regarding an outline, you’ll still make new discoveries along the way as you write. Until you get to the end of your book, there’s always a certain amount of mystery and ignorance around the journey. You can’t know what you don’t know. But when you finish, you know a lot more.
  1. Because it’s incredibly empowering to complete your vision from start to finish. You no longer have to feel intimidated by a blank page. You have a real novel! You know what happens. You have a clearer idea of who your characters are, how they talk, their friends, their enemies, and how they interact with all of them. Even if you started with a solid idea of these elements, when you experience them in detail, greater clarity emerges. It’s one of the most magical processes as an author.
  1. Because if an outline is like the frame of a new house, then the Starter Draft is like getting the walls up and the roof on. You now have something solid and real to work with. You can clearly see the vision of what the finished house will look like. You have something to improve, deepen, shape and refine — a book ready to be made even more wonderful. 
  1. Because writing your story is living your story. And a Starter Draft gives you the freedom to do that without the burden of perfection, or even improvement. Save those for the later steps.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, writing your Starter Draft is crucial to your success, and possibly your sanity, because experiencing your story for the first time without the burden of perfection is the center point of joy when you’re a writer.

Starter Drafts free us to dance and play in the world of our creative process. It doesn’t get any better than that.

See you on the bestsellers list!