Kiss, Katch, Kick, Kill – What to Do When You Get Stuck

Every novelist has experienced that moment when they hit a roadblock, even when they’ve taken the time to outline their project. It’s impossible to know all the answers from beginning to end, especially when you’re at the beginning of the process of creating your book. (See, It’s Okay to Not Have All the Answers When You Write)

As you create, new answers can emerge, sometimes changing the direction or aspects of the story. Sometimes a character doesn’t live up to what you’ve envisioned and the story slows. This is normal and experienced by all novelists, even New York Times bestselling authors. I know, because I’ve been in critique groups with some of them.

When we find ourselves in a place where the story lags or comes to a halt, it’s always about one thing:


Or rather, the lack, thereof.

Happily, I have a fun method to help you in those times. I learned this in a workshop taught by Jennifer Crusie ( a long time ago, and have carried it with me ever since.


Shakespeare liked to start his stories with romance, a fight, or the paranormal. Why? Conflict! And, hey, if it’s good enough for Shakespeare….

Using conflict techniques improves not only a book’s beginning, but also every chapter, and every scene. Dang, that’s a lot of conflict to come up with!

Yes. Yes, it is. But it doesn’t always mean a love scene, a fight, or the paranormal. Well, sort of.

And we can absolutely do it. Let the categories below spark your creativity and help you keep moving forward until you reach the satisfying end of your story.

NOTE: Of the lists below, any of the suggested actions can be taken, or received by a character.


This conflict category is the nicer end of the spectrum and isn’t only about kissing, although it can be. It also includes:

  • Welcomed touching of any kind, like a hug, or the brushing of hands
  • Flirting
  • Banter
  • Friendship and Family (emerging or established)
  • Loyalty
  • Protection
  • A positive reveal

IMPORTANT: As long as any of the above result in complications, they count for our purposes.


This category can mean a literal kick in the pants, or a slap in the face, but predominantly represents any kind of aggressive action that hurts another at a milder level than, say, murder. These could be:

  • Betrayal
  • Tricking
  • Lying
  • Stealing
  • Tempting
  • Sabotage (at this level, usually another character’s plan)
  • Conning (a related kick to lying and betrayal)


Whereas Kick represents milder physical, emotional, or mental attack, Kill is, as you would expect, more serious.

This category includes conflicts of any kind that lead to deep physical, mental, or emotional damage. They include all of the categories above taken to an intense level, as well as:

  • Verbal abuse
  • Physical assault
  • Murder
  • A reveal that permanently damages a relationship or person


Yes, Jennifer spelled “catch” with a K, and since I find it to be an enjoyable addition to the pattern, I’ve done the same all these years.

Katch covers such interesting and conflict-generating activities as:

  • Trapping (physically, socially, emotionally, or any other way you can think of)
  • Incarcerating
  • Kidnapping
  • Stopping
  • Discovering (learning something that could influence one of the above categories and causes conflict)
  • Revealing (a more public form of discovering)


This category is my addition, and not part of Jennifer’s original list. I discovered this amazing conflict technique while watching one of my favorite series, Vampire Diaries. Every character in that story had a secret, from off the charts to moderately normal. Amazing stuff.

Keeping and losing secrets is one of the best ways to ensure your readers will give up sleep or miss work before they’ll put down your book. Because characters with secrets are interesting, and their stories are, as well.

The Keeping Secrets list includes:

Gwyneth Paltrow in Shakespeare in Love
  • Guilt
  • Lying (on the side of the liar as opposed to the victim in Kick)
  • Withholding information (or anything else you can think of)
  • Escaping
  • Hiding
  • Spying (includes eaves dropping)
  • Controversial or dangerous pasts
  • Hiding anything (from their appearance, to the rules, to a location, or anything else you can think of)
  • Avoidance

What makes secrets particularly delicious is the subtext underneath them. People lie for as many reasons as there are individuals. Sometimes from embarrassment, sometimes because they’ve committed a crime, sometimes to manipulate or protect others.

Whatever the reason, it’s there below the surface influencing everything they do and say. For a writer, the result is a rich source of conflict.

And conflict drives all great stories.

Enjoy using this playful method to improve your writing, your characters, and to keep your stories moving forward in interesting ways.

And always remember what makes a happy, productive writer – conflict in our books, peace in our lives.

See you on the bestsellers list!

It’s Okay to Not Have All the Answers When You Write

But you need to have some of them.

From The Write Practice:

“You have to know something about your book before you begin to write your story. I think this is true whether you like to plot your novel before you write or not. You don’t need to know everything, but you do need to know something.”

An outline also helps, as discussed in The Advantage of Outlines. But until you start writing, keep writing, and finish that Starter Draft, some answers will refuse to present themselves.

Ah, the adventure of being a novelist. We must become comfortable with a little chaos.

The good news is, answers always seem to come. Eventually. The key is to keep moving forward. Because when we don’t, not having that answer will cause us to hit what’s known as the dreaded “writers block.” Then we stall out and sometimes never get going, again.

Here are some resources that might help:

As to writing groups, local is great, but there are also online options:

Never give up on your writing. The world needs what only you can offer!

See you on the bestsellers list

Why Genre Isn’t a Bad Word

Readers read a book or short story because they’re seeking a particular mood and journey. Genre gets them most of the way there, and there’s nothing wrong with that!

Most of our classics were genre fiction in their time, like Poe (horror), Mark Twain (adventure-satire), and even Dickens (paranormal-drama). Any kind of genre writing can carry a message (as long as it’s not being shoved down a reader’s throat), or take a reader on a profound journey. It’s all up to the writer.

From StoryMind:

“Many writers have a misconception that genre is something you “write in” – like a box. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Genre is the overall mood of a story, created through structural and storytelling elements and approaches.

This mood isn’t simply set at the beginning of the story and then continued through the conclusion. Rather, the elements of genre are sprinkled into the story, establishing an initial mood, and then developing it over the course of the entire story.”

(Read the rest of this article HERE.)

Even better, the right match of genre writing is incredibly fun for readers and author, alike. Plus, publishers love them because they can not only more soundly market genre fiction, they know there is a market for them.

Even if you’re writing literature, consider adding a genre to the book’s structure. Multi-million dollar best seller, The Secret Life of Bees, with its 4.5* rating and 7,500 reviews was tagged as a Southern Gothic novel. If it’s good enough for Sue Monk Kidd….

From Writers Write:

“Genres are great because they fulfill reader expectations. We buy certain books because we have enjoyed similar stories in the past. Reading these novels gives us a sense of belonging, of sitting down with an old friend and knowing we’re on familiar ground. There is also a camaraderie between readers who follow the same genres.

Writers can use this to their advantage because their boundaries are models on which to base stories. Genres reflect trends in society and they evolve when writers push the boundaries. Readers ultimately decide if the experiment has worked by buying these books.”

(Read the rest of this article HERE.)

Something to think about.

See you on the bestsellers list

Why the Status Quo of Society Kills Creativity

Before I get into the weeds of why society’s preferred way of doing things isn’t designed for creatives, let’s start with a story.

Imagine a third grade classroom in America. “Timmy, what’s the answer to number four?” the teacher asks from the front of the room.

“Eight,” Timmy quietly answers, sensing he now wobbles precariously between the trauma of shame and the fleeting joy of approval.

“How did you get that answer?” the teacher asks.

“Um…I just knew?”

“Come to the front and show us your work, please.”

Timmy’s face heats and his stomach cramps as all eyes go to him. His classmates snicker.

“I, um, just knew,” he mumbles.

“I see,” the teach says, her voice heavy with disapproval and disappointment. “Marjorie, what answer did you get?”


“Please come to the board and show us your work.”

With delight and pride, Marjorie sashays to the front and does just that, basking in the approval of the teacher and admiration of her classmates.

Fast-forward to Timmy as an adult. His life has been full of unfulfilled ideas for stories and inventions, as well as insightful observations and moments of knowing that he can’t explain. Currently, he has his best idea yet for a novel series, which came to him out of the blue.

He’s always wanted to be a novelist. It calls to his heart. But his parents told him writing stories wasn’t practical. Writers don’t make any money. He couldn’t support a family with it. And by the way, it’s time to be a responsible adult and get serious about his career.

Is it any wonder Tim’s tried to write a novel countless times and always abandoned it?

Sometimes the dissatisfaction, torment, and feelings of isolation get too much for him and he finds the strength to give writing another go. Something short. Not too intimidating. On those occasions, Tim finds himself in front of his computer, excited and ready to start. He begins to write….

And then his stomach cramps as his mind spins out future scenarios of disapproval, rejection, and judgement. He buckles down and writes a page, anyway. Then rewrites the page, finding new flaws every time. Discouragement builds. Why does he want to do something he stinks at?

So he takes a break. Cleans up his files. Scrubs the kitchen spotless. Binge watches a new show to find inspiration. Guilt torments him because he’s not keeping his promise to himself. He’s not doing what his heart calls him to do.

Not understanding why he can’t perfectly create his dreams, and that his efforts always end in failure, Tim pushes down his deepening depression and slogs off to his day job on Monday morning.


The above story is a fictional composite of experiences creatives I’ve known and myself have had. Tim’s story is sad, but sometimes, outcomes among the best of us are tragic, as with Hemingway, Virginia Wolf, and Robin Williams, for example.

The suppression of those wired to create is not a small thing. However, digging into our struggles to adapt, understand, blend in, and cope within a non-creative social structure is not what this article is about.

To start, please know that your creative gift is a rare, amazing part of who you are. It expresses the magic of the universe, not the pedantic training of human society. Which is why we’re needed.

Unfortunately, the dominant personality preference in our world, particularly in America, can’t fully understand what we bring to the party because it’s not how they’re wired. And because they’re the majority, education, business culture, and even organized religion has evolved from and for them.

In this status quo, methods and solutions are right or wrong, rules are king, and everyone gets tagged and put in a box. That’s “just how it is.”

Then a creative like you has the nerve to come along, and you are not in the majority.

Instead, you bring to the world something that cannot be measured by quantifiable means. Creativity doesn’t have one right answer, and is often messy and chaotic.

It cannot show its work because solutions come from somewhere beyond the cause-and-effect mind. Somewhere even creatives can’t name or describe. And why would we want to?

Creativity is the unchoreographed dance with an undefinable realm that generously and continuously pours new ideas into a perfection-obsessed, only-one-right-way world.


In this blog, my goal is to provide some understanding of why the status quo is what it is, and why creatives don’t fit in it. My hope is that we come to a place of acceptance and forgiveness along the way. The chosen vehicle for our journey is the Myers-Briggs type indicator model.

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is one of the more highly regarded methods used to determine an individual’s personality preference. Scientifically designed and vetted, it’s been around for a long time, is a favorite of the corporate world, and is often used in career counseling, team building, and traditional therapy.

The personality elements Myers-Briggs uses are:

  • “E” extrovert, vs. “I” introvert,
  • “N” intuitive, vs. “S” sensor,
  • “F” feeling, vs. “T” thinking, and
  • “P” perceiving (also called prospecting), vs. “J” judging.

For creatives like us, this well known test and its long history brings something enlightening and profound to the table.

Creatives are rare.

But we’re not alone.


A majority of us are the Myers-Briggs type known as Introvert-Intuitive-Feeling-Perceiving (INFPs). They comprise only 4% to 6% of the world’s population, depending on the source.

Creatives are also found in the Introvert-Sensor-Feeling-Perceiving (ISFP) camp, which makes up 6% to 9% of the population.

Another interesting breakdown, is ISFP women edge out men by a noticeable margin of 2% (women at 10% and men at 8%). Yet, INFP women only dominate the guys by .5%. Why either of these is the case, I couldn’t begin to tell you, but it would be a fun discussion.

All of this isn’t to say that other personality preferences don’t, or can’t, have successful writing careers. They do and can. For example, comprising 8% of the population are the Extrovert-Intuitive-Feeling-Perceiving (ENFPs) folks, who are people-centered creators and excellent communicators. Introvert-Sensor-Feeling-Perceiving (ISFPs) types are where you’ll find artists, sculptures, and composers. They claim 9% of our population. And ESFPs are the actors among us, making up 6% to 8% worldwide.

NOTE: In general terms, the difference between an I and an E is Introverts feel drained after extended socializing, such as a party or meeting, and Extroverts feel energized. However, it is a common misconception that Introverts don’t like to be around people. They do. Just in smaller doses.

All well and good, but what does this have to do with poor Tim? And you?

I’m glad you asked!


Because we tend to be different. And although what we produce is appreciated, who we are often is not. Especially when we’re young and haven’t actually done anything.

Because while the majority personality type understands their enjoyment of a good book, movie, concert, or art show, they don’t always cope well with the personality preferences that create them. Particularly when they encounter them in their status quo worlds.

This majority type in America is Introvert-Sensor-Thinking-Judging (ISTJ), and they aren’t known for being comfortable with anything outside their boxes.

“ISTJs are responsible organizers, driven to create and enforce order within systems and institutions. They are neat and orderly, inside and out, and tend to have a procedure for everything they do. Reliable and dutiful, ISTJs want to uphold tradition and follow regulations.” (Source: Truity)

ISTJs comprise a whopping 12% of the global population, and nearly 16% of the American population. Drilling down, ISTJs make up over 16% of the global male population, and 7% of the global female population.

They are commonly referred to as “The Inspector” personality type.

Do we need them? Yes. Have they made creatives’ lives miserable? Yes. And guess what? As the dominant world population type, society has evolved around and for them.

Add in the 9% of their Extrovert counterpart, also known as “The Supervisor,” and so much of the Creative’s experience in society makes perfect sense.

NOTE: As an interesting sidebar, the ESTJ group comprises the second largest type for men at 11%, and 6% for women. The “why” of that sounds like another potential topic for discussion.

An admired and valued group, these personality preferences are often found contributing to science, engineering, medicine, and academics. I, for one, appreciate them tremendously. I really would not enjoy scrubbing my laundry on a washboard, or dying from tetanus.

That said, with all this dominant type has to offer, why have creatives suffered and endured so much in their world?

It’s a Judging thing.

The Judging sub-trait of the dominant ISTJ type brings the need for strict order and consistency. They are most comfortable when people:

  • Follow the plan without deviation.
  • Have a clear and definable outcome.
  • Have a strong work ethic which entails putting your duties and responsibilities above everything else.
  • Believe that rules, laws, and standards are the keys to success.

Not necessarily wrong, but not the creatives’ way. Ah, clarity at last.

Which brings us back to our sad protagonist, Tim.


As a child, what Tim couldn’t perceive through his emotional trauma was that only a few of the other children participated in his humiliation. Many, like him, were not the dominant personality type, and those who were, were also introverts. Unknown to Tim, these children were hunkered down, silently pleading with the powers that be that they would not go to the guillotine next.

What he also could not know, or understand, was that Marjorie was likely a developing ENFJ, one of the rarer types with a tendency to be a “people pleaser.” Her Judging sub-trait made her comfortable in the status quo school setting, and her Extrovert main trait worked nicely with the “pick me” scenario. The rest urged her to seek approval from the teacher. She wasn’t evil. She was merely herself.

Understanding does not minimize our fictional creative’s difficult experiences, or your very real ones. It’s only meant to offer up the possibility that it’s okay to put one’s past into perspective, and then choose a better future outcome.

We do not have to be imprisoned by our negative experiences. As adults, we do not have to allow them to stop us from doing what we love.


Your creative gifts express the wonder and beauty of “what if?”, not the pedantic training of a society that predominantly values the Introvert/Extrovert+Judging personality preference. In the creative world, perfection is not required, neither is it applicable. What matters more is freedom, outrageous idea exploration, and giving yourself permission to be messy.

With no right or wrong answer possible, mistakes can’t exist. Not at the creative level. Not in your Starter Draft.

And despite the use of statistics and personality profiling in this blog, the truth is that human beings are much too complex to be put in a box. Even by the venerated Myers and Briggs.

You are unique. We all are. Including those who track as ISTJs, plus every type in between.

Create like when the world of imagination felt limitless. Fly free when you brainstorm. Paint amazing adventures with your words.

Be who you are.

A creative.

See you on the bestsellers list.


Take the test HERE.

Explore the world personality type percentages by country.

And if you wondered about the rarest personality preference types, they are:

  • INFJ: Introvert-Intuitive-Feeler-Judging– 1% to 2% of the population, depending on the source. Also creative, but with a focus on service to others.
  • ENTJ: Extrovert-Intuitive-Thinking-Judging — 1.8% of the population. The leaders among us.
  • INTJ: Introvert-Intuitive-Thinking-Judging — 2.1% of the population, they are the scientist and programmer types, and the second rarest for women (.9%).
  • ENFJ: Extrovert-Intuitive-Feeling-Judging — 2.3% of the population. The teachers of the world.

My Starter Draft’s a Hot Mess, Now What?

Before I give you the inside scoop on using passes to improve your Starter Draft, I offer this important message.

Finish your starter draft first.

Do not tackle passes until you have, otherwise you’ll bog down as described in, Finishing Your Starter Draft is Crucial to Success.

In addition, please know that passes are not finished in a day, or even a week. Especially for a novel. They take time, patience, and dedication. What they don’t require is perfect solutions.

Passes are about improvement, not perfection. Your stories will never be perfect, so try to release any internal commitments to that unattainable goal. But they can be good. Even great.

Happily, readers don’t require perfection. They want interesting characters they can root for, and an intriguing and emotional journey they can take with those characters. Passes can get you there.

Finally, do each pass in the order listed below. That’s important, as they build on each other, going from broad fixes to detailed ones.

Focus on each pass, one at a time. Also important, unless you want your brain to explode.

Improving Your Starter Draft

For each pass, potential story weaknesses and possible solutions are listed. Scan through your story for each weakness listed, one at a time. If you find that particular problem, brainstorm potential solutions and repair it.

If no solution comes to you in one or two minutes of brainstorming, mark the area and move on. Something later, perhaps during one of the other passes, might spark exactly the solution you need.

Pass One: The Big Picture

Your first pass improves weaknesses in the broader story, such as conflicts that arch the entire journey, pacing, cliffhangers, hooks, and general plot elements that could be stronger. Only concern yourself with the areas that apply to each potential weakness.

Weakness:  The first ten pages don’t launch the broad challenge of the series or book. If a short work, the first two pages.

Solutions: What larger mystery, problem, or conflict can you set up in the first five to ten pages? If you can do that on page one, even better.

Weakness: Main characters are not in opposition to each other. They do not hold opposite philosophies, goals, personality traits, or methodologies for solving problems.

Solution: Brainstorm changes you can make to your character profiles that will achieve these goals. (See Interesting Characters Mean Easier Writing.)

Weakness: The structure does not deliver an engaging pace, or growing challenges at each key turning point. (See Story Arcs.)


  • When characters solve one problem, it leads to a worse problem.
  • Midpoint reveals something surprising and sends the story in a new direction.
  • Main story and secondary stories relate to each other and are cohesive.
  • Main character is changed by the end in an important way for them.
  • If a series, the ending sets up the next book.
  • Add a relevant cliffhanger to the end of each scene. (See Cliffhangers, Not Just for the End of a Book by Jami Gold)

Weakness: Not enough character empathy and distress.

Solution: Brainstorm how to increase the emotional stakes using difficult situations such as forced decisions, betrayal, emotional wounds, undeserved misfortune, or failed plans.

Pass Two: Dialogue

For this pass, focus on one main character at a time. After that, if you feel so inclined, do the pass for secondary characters.

Weakness: Readers may not know who is speaking.

Solution: Clarify speaker through dialogue tags (“Charlotte said”), or character action/internal process. If only two characters are conversing, clarify every third line of dialogue, or as appropriate.

Weakness: Character does not speak in alignment with their wounds, beliefs, environment, and personality.

Solution: Make each line a character speaks reflect their profile and environment (time period, social standing, role).

Weakness: Dialogue is mundane (boring).


  • Cut it.
  • Change to an attack/counterattack pattern, whether hostile, flirtatious, or manipulative.
  • Foreshadow the future.
  • Introduce intrigue/mystery.
  • Add irony or subtext.
  • Substitute with action or internal thoughts and emotions.

Pass Three: Action and Description

In this pass, ignore emotional descriptions for now. Focus on physical action and environment/character descriptions only.

Weakness: Action tells. (Usually passive voice and holds reader distant from experiencing story)

Solutions: Action shows. (Strive for active voice to pull reader into the experience with the POV character)

Weakness: Description is bland and list-like.

Solutions: Brainstorm how description could–

  • Deliver the emotional tone you want for the scene or book.
  • Reflect a character’s traits, wound, career, or social standing.
  • Deliver irony (For example: a violent conflict in a beautiful or peaceful setting).

Weakness: Characters do not interact with their environment (just talking heads).


  • Add physical action that reflects or counters character’s words/internal experience.
  • Add physical action that grounds the speaker in place and time.
  • Add physical action that “speaks” instead of the line of dialogue.

Pass Four: Emotion

For this pass, focus only on characters’ emotional descriptions.

Weakness: There are no emotions, or bland emotions. Characters are flat.

Solutions: Evaluate each scene and the characters in it and brainstorm what they are feeling. For POV character, reflect this internally (through physical reaction and thoughts). For other characters show observable, physical reflections of their emotions. (See Cheat Sheets for Writing Body Language on Writers Write.)

Weakness: Emotions are delivered by telling (usually using passive voice or lists).

Solutions: Brainstorm how to show the emotion with physical reactions and active internal conflict or processing.

Weakness: Character emotions do not fit their profiles.

Solutions: Review profile of character and brainstorm emotional reactions which fit who they are and what they want.

Weakness: Character emotional reaction does not inspire reader curiosity (why?), satisfaction (ah-hah!), amusement (LOL), or discovery (They’re lying!).  

Solutions: Brainstorm ways to add intrigue (why), reveals (ah-hah), irony (LOL), and subtext (They’re lying) to characters’ emotional reactions.

Pass Five: Wordsmithing

The final pass is wordsmithing which is the detail work and always saved for last.

Wordsmithing is as important as the previous passes, however. It’s the deep clean before you send your book off to an agent or editor, or before you launch it on Amazon.

Fixing the weaknesses listed below matters. Any of them can potentially pull a reader out of your story and give them a reason to put down your book. Often never to return.

Go through your story and one at a time, in order, look for:

  1. Is this dialogue line, description, or action necessary? If not, cut it.
  2. Is this dialogue, description, or action too long? How can I break it up or cut it down?
  3. Is this dialogue line, description, or action clear? If not, brainstorm how to clarify, shorten, or even cut it.
  4. Are verbs and nouns strong and descriptive enough? How can I improve them?
  5. Do descriptive paragraphs contain too many visual images? Which one works best? How can I expand that one and change, or cut, the rest?
  6. Are exclamation points, all caps, dashes, or ellipses overused? If so, delete and replace with action/emotion.
  7. Are there overused words, such as curses, action verbs (walked, ran), or emotions (glared, eyes widened, smiled)? Replace them.
  8. Finally, read your manuscript backwards. You’ll be amazed by what you find to fix, especially typos.

See you on the bestsellers list.

Article adapted from ScreenwritingU courses, including the fabulous Binge Worthy TV class.

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!