There And Draft Again

A Fellowship of Fantasy Writers

Writing Tools: January 29, 2014

Filed under: Writing — thereanddraftagain @ 11:52 am
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As writers we have a plethora of tools at our disposal: Scrivener has taken cross-referencing and compiling research and resources to a whole new level of amazing, pinterest has delivered a feast of visual images that cannot fail to inspire, and google has become a go-to font of information for both the sublime and the mundane.

But as far as writing tools go, has really turned up the volume.

I stumbled across the website by accident when one of my characters was standing on the edge of a thunderstorm. For the life of me I couldn’t recall the finer details of a thunder-clap; so I googled it, and found Not only did it have this actual recording of a thunder-clap, but it had thousands of free sound effects and sound clips.

Footsteps on gravel, galloping horses, flapping wings, frog chorus, raptor call, and my personal favourite – a lightsaber being turned on and off (there is a subtle difference), are only a few examples. If you’re having trouble capturing the nuance of a sound, chances are may have a recording that will help.

Like any tool it isn’t going to write your story for you, but I’ve found it has encouraged me to open myself up to the sensory experience of my characters. If I’m listening to the wind in the trees, I’m more likely to consider the sharp scent of pine needles or the sticky smear of sap that won’t easily be wiped off.

I’m not suggesting you’d use it for every scene, but if you’re struggling to connect, this may be a useful tool.

Have you ever used sound clips to help you pin down a scene?

– Raewyn Hewitt


Writing By Numbers November 2, 2013

Filed under: Writing — thereanddraftagain @ 6:18 pm
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In September, I wrote my first short story. Between 1,000 and 4,000 words was the requirement. For October, I wrote a short “scene”. 250 words or less.

My short story, THE DEVIL’S GAME, needed a beginning, middle, and end. It needed sensory description, voice, 3-D characters, tension. Just like a full length novel. My first draft came in at 4,096 words. Not bad for my first run, huh? My final draft ended at 3,263 words.

That’s a difference of 833 words.

Next came my “scene”, UNEARTHED. Unlike a full length novel or short story, this just needed understanding. Someone’s doing something and this happens type of thing. My first draft hit 302 words. Ouch. My final draft ended at 246 words.

A difference of 56 words.

Before I started either of these, I researched the methods used for short-story writing and read other short stories. I tried to discern what made them work, what made them good. Then I started mine. Writing with a word count limit is challenging. Editing and revising to stay below word count AND make the story decent is damn hard. Every. Single. Word. Counts.


I knew this already, but now I have a greater appreciation for it. And while my shorts are far from perfect, I learned a great deal.

Now I’m doing a complete one-eighty. It’s NaNoWriMo, A.K.A. Projectile Word Vomiting Month. To reach the 50,000 word goal, 1,667 words per day are needed. While I’m not “officially” nano-ing, I am going to finish one of my WIPs.

Once I’m done, I’ll put it away for a couple of weeks. Work on something else. When I take it back out to edit and revise, I’ll use the “Writing by Numbers” tools I garnered while writing my shorts. Tools that taught me how to be more meticulous, more creative.

Tools I hope will make my stories more magical.

Until next month, happy writing!



Creating Your Fantasy Bible: Creature Feature Edition May 2, 2013

We are still on the journey to creating our encyclobibliogrimoires for our fantasy worlds, and today I thought we might mix two related topics: Creatures and Races.

First, let’s distinguish between the two. Obviously, Races need to be your more sentient beings whereas creatures would be the things that go bump in the night or swoop in from overhead. No, no swooping. As Alistair might say: Swooping…is…bad. For characters, anyway, but not for plot. Which is why you want to include them in your encylobibliogrimoire. If your characters have to fight magical creatures of some kind, you need to be able to keep them straight in your head and know at least as much about them as your characters will.

How you distinguish between the beasts and beings is, of course, at your discretion. But for organizational purposes I suggest doing it. For example, I would consider the House Elves from Harry Potter to be beings, not creatures, because they are intelligent and have their own cultures and traditions. But I would consider the giant spiders to be creatures because, well, they scare me.

Like I said, your discretion. Here’s an example from my bestiary for Heirs of War:

Black Dog by Micha F. Lindemans (Encyclopedia Mythica)

The black dogs are found all over the British Isles, especially on deserted roads. They are roughly the size of a calf and they move in utter silence, except for the clicking of their claws. The chill despondency and despair these dogs cause is the reason why there are no detailed descriptions of their appearance. While a companion is no guarantee for safety — for one might see the dog and the other might not — it offers a better protection than walking alone. It is said that the best companion is a descendant of Ean MacEndroe of Loch Ewe. He rescued a fairy once and in return he and his descendants were given perpetual immunity from the power of the black dogs. (See also Barghest).

Some creatures I have pictures of, others I don’t. Now, here’s an example of a description of one of my races:



  • “a pair of eyes so big they gave the impression that someone had screwed two light bulbs into a light brown furry face and painted large brown dots on them”
  • “humanoid creature with its gangly limbs. The creature was maybe two feet tall, coming to just above the girl’s knees. Two skinny hands were placed on its hips, the thin lips of the creature’s mouth pulled down as it frowned”


Brownies are invisible brown elves or household goblins who live in farmhouses and other country buildings within Scotland. While the members of the household are asleep they go about doing labours for the house owners. Brownies are protective creatures and become attached to the families if the family move the Brownie will move with them. If a brownie is treated badly by the family or is offered payment the brownie vanishes without trace. Children because of their innocent nature can only see Brownies, though this does not prevent the brownies from helping adults

The donnfay aren’t one of my more prominent races, more just a nod to my love of Irish and Scottish folklore. Hence why there isn’t a lot of information on them. The more prominent a race features in your story, the more information you should have on them. You should include their origins (which part of your world or land), their traditions, their cultures, their physiology, any special powers or gifts they have, their weaknesses, their prejudices…the list can go on and on. Don’t panic if you can’t answer all of those criteria and don’t feel like you are overdoing it if you have more. Keep in mind that your encyclobibliogrimoire is there as an aid for you.

We’ll talk about geography next go round. For now, make sure you hit the comments to let us all know how your encyclobibliogrimoire is going!

Mara Valderran

Dori and the Legendary First Draft March 20, 2013

Filed under: Writing — thereanddraftagain @ 5:30 am
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~ by K. L. Schwengel

It’s an ugly beast.

Disjointed, and awkward, it has too many of some things and not enough of others. Parts of it seem half-formed, as though the power that created it left off too early or couldn’t figure out how to finish that particular appendage. Other parts of it shimmer with perfection, nearly flawless in their beauty. When it moves, it does so hesitantly in great lumbering strides. Then suddenly it surges ahead with all the speed and care of a juggernaut only to flop onto the ground, panting, uncertain of what to do next.

This is no mythical creature. No being drug from the depths of murky legend. This, my friends, is the dreaded First Draft.

Ah, yes, I can see by your expressions that some of you are quite familiar with this being. Perhaps you have your very own you are struggling with? Or have you recently bid one Finis! and tucked it in to sleep while you prepare the shredding tools?

In all the long process of writing, the First Draft, for this writer at least, is the most difficult part. Getting from, “It was a dark and stormy night,” to “The End” is a long, torturous journey for me. Mostly because I suffer from incurable rewriteritess. I want every word on the page to be perfect. To glisten like a polished sword slicing through the low mist of early morning. I can’t tolerate plot holes. Little details make me squirm as though someone has put tacks on my chair. Fighting with my characters makes me cranky.

But if I gave in to all that (which I have) I would never get anything done. I would work on the same handful of chapters over and over (which I have). So, how do I get over my rewriteritess and forge ahead?

So glad you asked! Here are my tricks:

  •  I repeat to myself: You can’t edit a blank page. I can’t take credit for that quote, but don’t remember who can. Regardless, I intend to put that above my monitor. And if you just keep editing the same pages over and over you’ll never get to Finis!
  • If I get really and truly stuck I do this: [Just keep writing and fill this in later] Seriously. There are such bracketed notes all throughout my first drafts of late. Just keep writing, just keep writing . . . who else is hearing Dori?
  • I mention it to my writer pals, and they kick me in the arse.
  • My husband asks, “How’s the book coming?” I reply, “I’m stuck.” He says, “Just keep going.”
  • I remind myself that the First Draft is allowed to suck. That’s truly its purpose. It can’t rise above and become a polished gem until it gets rough cut first. Even when I paint, my pictures invariably go through what I term The Ugly Stage. I don’t show them to anyone during that phase. They’re horrid. I’m working things out — colors, details, placement — and only after The Ugly Stage can I begin to fine tune them.
  • I tell myself no one is ever going to read the First Draft. It is for my eyes only. It doesn’t matter if I’m passive, use too many adverbs, or left a participle dangling somewhere, because once the beast is whole, I can fix those issues. I can smooth and massage and tweak to my heart’s content. But you cannot tweak an unfinished beast.

So, what tricks do you have to forge ahead in your First Draft?


Writerly Tools: Editing Edition February 22, 2013

Filed under: Writing — thereanddraftagain @ 4:44 am
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Here at There & Draft Again, we’ve gone over lots of helpful tips and tools you can use when writing your novel. World-building resources. Thesauruses to help expand your prose a bit. Building characters. POV. But what if you’re past all of that? What if you’ve already written your first, even your second or third draft of your manuscript?

Well, first of all, let’s start by saying:


You’ve finished writing a book! Time to publish!

Wait, that’s not what I meant at all. What I really meant was that you are, as most people say, halfway through the battle. In reality, I think it is more like 1/4 of the way but who am I to nitpick?

The point, of course, is you have a long journey ahead of you filled with editing, beta readers, crit partners, etc. All of which you will need to get your manuscript shiny enough to send off to an agent or publisher. In this edition of Writerly Tools, we will be discussing editing with advice as well as tools you can use.

First piece of advice: Never submit a first draft to anything besides a beta reader or crit partner. First drafts are just that–first drafts. The harsh reality is there is a lot more work that goes into being a writer than the fun parts like developing characters, world-building, etc.


In fact, sometimes it can feel like a full-time job after the first draft is done. So what do you do? Where do you start? Well, with some nifty tools of course. We’ve already touched on this, but a thesaurus is really your best friend when it comes to editing. We all have our favorite words in our ever-expanding vocabularies, but you want to make sure that doesn’t show too much in your manuscript. If you want to get down to the nitty-gritty of editing, you can try these three tools:

1. Wordle: This is a word map of your manuscript. I have not been able to get it to successfully work for me, but other people have and speak very highly of it. Basically, you plug in your manuscript/chapter and Wordle will create word maps, or word clouds, of your piece. The bigger words are the most used, which tells you that you need to narrow down the usage a smidge (or more if you are like me and love it when characters purse their lips). Best part: It’s free! Worth a shot!

2. Autocrit: Oh, how can I sing thy praise, Not only do you offer a free preview by allowing authors to paste 700 words into your wizard and spit out some interesting bits (like overused words, for example), but for a fairly decent price you can subscribe for a year and get access to even more tools like cliches and redundancies, pronoun usage, and many more. I got the Platinum membership for $77 a year and I definitely recommend it, especially for editing novices like me. The process of editing can be overwhelming and this definitely has some good pointers as to where to start and helps you develop an eye for mistakes.

3. MyWriterTools Editor Edition: I can’t say too much about this because I don’t have it myself, but it does look appealing. It seems to be a plugin for Microsoft Word and creates checklists for writing, proofreading, and editing for you. If I am reading the site correctly, the program also creates your very own style sheet. This is definitely on my “want” list, but since I just got Autocrit and this program is $49.99 ($29.99 introductory price) and I am still learning about it, it will have to wait. Have you used this program before? Sound off in the comments!

I know not all of us can afford editors, but sometimes these programs might help offset editing costs while making your manuscript stand out as something, well, not riddle with errors. It might be worth the investment if you find yourself in the position to make it.

What are some of your tips and tricks of the editing trade? Tell us what you use and what you think of the recommendations!

Mara Valderran

How to write a pitch for your Fantasy novel February 16, 2013

Filed under: Writing — thereanddraftagain @ 9:32 am
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Welcome !

Whether you’re looking for an agent or self-publishing your Fantasy book, there comes a time in your life as a writer when you have to write a pitch for your novel. Here is a bit of advice on what to do and what to avoid when drafting your pitch…

1-      Bear in mind the purpose of your pitch is to sell the idea of your story to an agent or a reader. “Hooking” them with a 10-line paragraph summarising your 100k+ novel isn’t an easy task, but it is doable, and necessary if you want  your book to make it to readers’ shelves.

2-      A pitch for a Fantasy novel should be about 200 words long.

3-      A pitch should include:

–          Who your Main Character is and what he wants (his GOAL)

–          What the inciting incident is and why your Main Character chooses to do something about it (his CHOICE)

–          What is at stake should your Main Character fail in his endeavour (WHY THE READER SHOULD CARE)

4-      A pitch should NOT be too generic and vague. Chuck Sambuchino gives a great example of what a pitch should not be like on the Writer’s Digest website. Do go and read it.

5-      A pitch should not include everything about your story. It should not attempt to describe in detail the wonderfully complex world you’ve created. Thus it should only include your Main Character, the Antagonist and whoever is relevant to the Main Character’s goal, choice and problem. And it should not mention too many proper names and places.

6-      Last but not least, you should have beta readers for your pitch. Try to find at least one who hasn’t read your novel and has no idea what it’s about. And try to have at least one who has read your novel and can tell you if your pitch does it justice.

I hope this helps and feel free to leave us questions and comments below!



Writerly Tools: Storyboard Edition January 17, 2013

Filed under: Writing — thereanddraftagain @ 2:43 am
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Annnnnddd we’re back with another special edition of Writerly Tools! On today’s agenda, we’ll be talking about how to organize all of those crazy thoughts and plots in your head.

Now, before you scoff and say “I’m a pantser! I write as it comes to me!”…well, for starters, don’t say that. And then take a step back and think about the complexities and intricacies of the story you are developing. For me, it is near impossible to keep it all straight in my head without some sort of reminder. I tend to pants it and then plot to make sure everything makes sense. Which is how these tools come in handy.

The first one I am going to talk about is one I, admittedly, know very little about as a non-Mac user. But I did see a friend use it and it looked awesome! I am referring to the Storyboard program for the Mac. I saw my friend use it as essentially a plot map with lines drawn to subplots and repercussions of scenes, etc. I was insanely jealous and for the first time in my life wanted to get a Mac just for the purpose of this program. So if you are a Mac user, I suggest checking it out.

If you are not a Mac user (or if you are since this program is now available for the Mac), I would suggest a program I do know a little something about called Scrivener. It is AMAZEBALLS. I have no real words as to why, so first I am going to show you as I gather my thoughts.


That’s right folks. Your very own virtual corkboard. The best part? You can layer. These pins can be folders which contain scenes. For me, my folders are always chapters and then I have individual scenes within those chapters. You can keep notes on each item, which can say as little as “Chapter Three” to as much as describing your scene briefly. This is the perfect outlining tool AND it is pretty cheap too. Right now it is $40 (US) but if you win NaNoWriMo or CampNaNo, then you can get a discount. They offer a free 30 day trial where the days are not consecutive but instead are days of usage. So if you only use it twice a week, the free trial will last you 15 weeks. Awesomesauce, right?

It gets even better. You know those character journals and story bibles people are always talking about? Well, Scrivener essentially acts as one giant notebook for you. So there are areas for characters and research.

Of course, programs aren’t for everyone, which I completely understand. Why do I understand that?


Because sometimes a good ole fashioned piece of posterboard and some sticky notes will do the trick.

Whatever your preference, I would definitely make organizing your plot elements a priority. This will help you avoid inconsistencies with characters and plot and also help you to really map your story to a timeline. What are you favorite plotting tools? Sound off in the comments below and be sure to check back next month for the Editing Edition of Writerly Tools!

-Mara Valderran

World-Building Resources (Part 1) December 27, 2012

Filed under: Writing — thereanddraftagain @ 1:32 am
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When I set out to create this particular blog, I had a list of books I planned on recommending to you all that are great resources for world-building. As it turns out, I’m a pantser even when it comes to blogging. Because as I went on vacation with my husband for Christmas, inspiration for one of the best and cheapest world-building resources ever came to me: Nature.


What is the one thing that all fantasy worlds have in common? There has to be some sort of nature, some sort of plant-life for the inhabitants of that world to survive off of. And this is, to me, one of the most important aspects of world-building. You don’t need to spend five pages describing a leaf, but it is very important that the reader be immersed in the world your characters are traveling through. Tolkien and Rowling both did amazing jobs with this. Their worlds were so vivid they might as well have been characters in the books. I feel like I know Middle Earth and Hogwarts better than I know my own backyard. Why? Details. And because I don’t go in my backyard a lot, but I digress.


You see, my husband and I set out on our Christmas jaunt and he decided to surprise me by taking me on a hike through the woods where The Hunger Games was filmed. No, The Hunger Games has nothing to do with my manuscript and would hardly fit in the epic fantasy genre, but it is yet another example of an author who knew what she was doing with world-building. Oddly enough, my mind wasn’t on Suzanne Collins or her books while we traipsed through the woods where the movie was filmed. I found myself in awe of the sites on this hike. The views were amazing and so magical I would (and probably will) use them as inspiration for my series.


Which is what led me to this blog. Usually, when doing research for world-building I turn to books and the internet. I have a whole slew of pictures of castles and rolling green hills and oceans and lakes. But in all my hours of surfing online, I’ve forgotten one very vital thing I would like to remind you all of today.

Triple Falls, NC

Triple Falls, NC

If you are looking for a magical world to help you build your own, sometimes you need to look no further than the one you live in.


Sure, surfing the net is fine. And books are a great help (see my recommendation below for a great one to get you thinking about the plants in your world). But if you really want to know what it would be like for your character to hike by a river or through a vast forest of trees, then try it out for yourself. Not only will you have experience to use in your writing, but you’re bound to find inspiration as well.


If you’re looking to start your world-building with nature and need more to go on than a hike with breathtaking views, check out this book for information on different herbs:


Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs by Scott Cunningham is a great source of the magical aspects of the plants around us. Some have healing properties, others bring luck. Cunningham discusses herb magic in this book, but if herb magic isn’t the way you want to go it is still a great resource. Need to know what plants to line the way of a dark and eerie path your characters need to take? Look at the meaning behind herbs and the plants they come from (or flip through the illustrations). The book is available through Amazon or Barnes&Noble (available in both Kindle and Nook formats). Amazon also has a pretty good preview of the book available for viewing, so I would strongly recommend you take a look before you purchase to make sure this book will be helpful to you.



What world-building resources do you use? Hit the comments to give us your recommendations!



Writerly Tools: Thesaurus Edition December 16, 2012

Writing is not just a hobby, as those of us who write know. Sometimes it can feel more like a chore than a passion, especially when you hit a rough patch. Maybe your characters aren’t behaving or your prose is getting to be repetitive. Do your characters tend to shrug their shoulders or purse their lips a little too much? Or maybe organizing the massive plots, subplots, and plot twists in your head is becoming an overwhelming task.



Whatever flavor of road block you happen to be hitting, the point is that as writers we are sometimes in need of aid when putting our ideas to paper. Today’s blog is dealing with just that: Writerly Tools. There are quite a few on the list, but let’s start with the obvious ones.



When you are writing, the thesaurus is your best friend. Obviously you can go with but there is also an alternative that seems to think outside Webster’s box. The website Thesaurasize is completely free and definitely a big help in getting those synonym balls rolling in your head. Simply type in a word and hit Thesaurize, then you can begin to browse the many different possibilities. The last one I used was for the word shard and the list the site gave me was of 95 synonyms.


Sometimes we don’t need a thesaurus just for adjectives and adverbs, though. Sometimes we need to think about a character’s emotions and try to channel their feelings onto the page. When a character is mad you don’t want them to always just glare at someone or scowl. You need more than that because your characters are more than just a mundane set of robotic actions on repeat. Challenge yourself! Easier said than done, right?


ImageWhich is why I whole-heartedly recommend The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi (available on the Nook and Kindle as well as hard copy). I have to say that this book has been my saving grace for some really sticky points in my books. I’m a very conversational and dialogue driven writer, so when you get down to descriptors I am usually banging my head against the keyboard with a lot of choice expletives, but not exactly the kind of words I’m searching for. This book has really helped me to expand on the way I describe the emotions of my characters so that I am not depending on the dialogue so heavily and I am not resorting to just telling the reader how my characters are feeling (“He was sad. He cried.”=lame).  Instead, I can look up “sadness” from the list of emotions they give you in the contents, and find the physical signs of sadness, the internal sensations, the mental responses, cues of acute or long term sadness, cues of suppressed sadness, and even what sadness might escalate to.


Now, of course, you could just take exact phrases from the listings they give you. But I really like that it makes me think a whole lot more about everything my character might be experiencing in that particular moment. If my character has difficulty expressing what they are feeling, they might have more subtle signs of those emotions, like in their posture or voice. If they are emotional basket cases, they might have the more obvious signs. The point is, the listing is all over the spectrum and it has only served to help me get to know my characters better. I know that with some googling you can probably find all of the contents yourself, but that is more time consuming than I have patience for and I love the organized way the information is presented. This book is really the best five bucks I have spent.


In my Nook book browsing for a better thesaurus than the one followed by a .com, I also found a book called The Ultimate Fiction Thesaurus by Sam Stone for $0.99 (also on the Nook and Kindle) and think it was worth the dollar. In a good way. It’s a nice exercise in expanding your descriptors and training yourself to really paint a picture for the reader. There are exercises as well as thesaurus entries for things like body type, voices, facial expressions, conduits of expression, body language, movement, and violence. That being said, it is only fourteen pages in length, so it doesn’t go into quite as much as The Emotion Thesaurus but it does touch on topics The Emotion Thesaurus doesn’t. However, there appears to be a second edition that might be worth checking out. I’ll be sure to let you guys know!


My list of Writerly Tools goes on, but for now I will leave you to digest the many different thesaurus options. Check back next month for more tools and be sure to leave your own thesaurus suggestions in the comments!

And as you continue down your magical journeys of writing, keep in mind what the great Zeddicus Zu’l Zorander always said…

Nothing is ever easy.

-Mara Valderran