Guest Post

Everyday Storytelling - The Art of Reframing by Amy Hawes

Today's guest blogger is Amy M. Hawes. Yes, the same Amy who has been my best friend since we were twelve years old, and yes, I have a guest appearance in this post as the terrified pal on the rollercoaster! Amy has a terrific blog that chronicles her journey as a writer, and features her funny, insightful reflections on writing and on life. This one in particular made me laugh out loud, but also reminded me that so many things are what we choose to make them. You can visit Amy's blog, follow her on twitter@amymhawes, or catch up with her on Facebook. Enjoy!

The mind is a funny thing. More funny, strange than funny, ha ha. Although, it can make you laugh (hopefully at yourself). And it can trick you. Oh, man, can it trick you. But guess what? You can trick it right back. It just takes a little imagination . . .

I’m not going to tell you exactly how much weight I gained this last god-awful winter. Let’s just say it was enough to make my loosest jeans feel tight. When you are too fat for your fat jeans it’s a problem. Since I normally don’t have to work hard to stay at my ideal weight it was quite unpleasant to stick to a slimming program to take off those pounds. I felt deprived, hungry and, yeah, a little sorry for myself.

But with a little imagination I found a new story to tell myself. . .

THE NEW STORY: I’m on a spaceship traveling to some super-cool destination (probably through some sort of wormhole) and, of course, I have to eat rations just like the rest of the crew. If I eat more than my fair share I could cause a mutiny. Not good. I think I can live with my reduced caloric intake. I don’t feel sorry for myself at all. All I can think about is my destination (and not being the cause of a spaceship-wide uprising). Undiscovered planet and aliens here I come!

My best friend and I went to Six Flags for a self-titled rollercoaster fest. If you ask me, their best coaster is Bizarro. If you’ve been on Bizarro you know it has a very slow, very vertical ascent. As we ratcheted up to its precarious apex, my friend looked over at me. Yup, her face was that classic why did I get on this thing? shade of rollercoaster white. She murmured in a quite rational voice, “Um, I’m not sure I’m enjoying this.”

THE NEW STORY: Okay, just pretend you’re doing astronaut training. Preparing for experiencing G force. (You really can experience G force on Bizarro, by the way). She laughed. “Okay, that totally works. Astronaut training it is.” Super awesome ride commenced.

Yes, you’re right to suspect there’s a space theme involved in a lot of my reframing. But you can find whatever “story” works for you and fake your mind into seeing an uncomfortable situation in a more pleasant way.

These are both rather inconsequential examples of reframing. Let’s try something more serious.

Your kids are outdoing each other to win the title of “most annoying human ever". Everything that comes out of your husband’s mouth seems meticulously designed to aggravate you. And, it’s your turn to cook tonight and you really, and I mean really, don’t feel like it. 

THE NEW STORY: You pour yourself a glass of wine because you can’t even think about reframing without some sort of sedative. Honestly, they should all just go away, then you can curl up with a book and have another glass of wine. You’ll throw a salad together if you get hungry. Screw them. But, hey, the wine is kicking in a bit and you might be willing to try this imagination thing. A long forgotten memory creeps in. You remember playing house. You know–when you actually believed you wanted a husband and kids and you happily cooked on your pretend stove for them. Back then you thought all that crap was fun. It didn’t feel like work at all.

Could you try to bring a sliver of that sentiment into your current predicament? The feeling that this isn’t work but a choice? Can you pretend the maddening beings around you are just characters in the story? You’re not concerned about them. You’ve got your own pretty little fantasy and you’re sticking to it even if the “facts” contradict your fairytale.

Please don’t roll your eyes. Try it. You might be surprised by the results. Make up your own stories. Trick your mind. Fire up that imagination. And most importantly, don’t ever, ever grow up.

The Trouble With First Drafts - Ron Delaney

This blog is written by a friend I met at a writing conference. He is currently writing high concept, middle grade fantasy. Good stuff. We regularly read and critique each other's work, and his input makes my writing better, no question. (I hope he feels the same!) When I read his post about writing a first draft, it resonated immediately. I am currently writing the first draft of my second book and, while some things have gotten easier, it is still a labor of love. Emphasis on labor. It's nice to know I'm not alone in my creative struggle! You can follow Ron on twitter @RonDelaneyJr and check out his blog "Ron Writes Stuff" at His Friday Morning FYI's are worth the follow! 

I believe with all my heart the most important thing about writing a novel is completing the first draft.

It’s just math. It doesn’t matter how great or original your idea is. A great, original idea does not equal a book. It doesn’t matter how long your outline is. An outline does not equal a book. You have to complete that first draft. A first draft is a book, albeit (for many of us) a bad book, but a book nonetheless. Or manuscript, if you prefer. Then you do a ton of editing to make it a good book, or even a great book. If you’d like to see it spelled out, here are some formulas (to keep the whole math theme going):

no first draft = no book

first draft = book

(first draft + editing) = second draft = better book

(second draft + A LOT of editing) = next draft = good book 

Simple? Good. But that brings me to a unexpected problem…

I assumed (yes, I know) that as I developed as a writer, completing a first draft would get easier. I mean, the more you do something, the better you get at it, right? Writing should be no different.

(more writing) = increased skill = faster, easier first drafts 

But I’ve found the opposite to be true.

I’m currently working on a first draft, and while it’s coming along nicely, I can’t say it’s easier to write than the first drafts for either of my other two books. In fact, I’m finding it more difficult than my first (the other having been done at the speed of crazy during NaNoWriMo). The above formula doesn’t work.

In pondering this, I arrived at several possible answers:

Writing never gets easier – I think this is only partially true. I’m not saying that after a book or two you’ll be able to bang out quality first drafts in a week (though some writers are so gifted), I’m saying you should get to a point where you’ve refined your process enough to be able to work faster and with less stress than when you started writing.

You didn’t learn anything from your earlier efforts – People from all walks of life do this every day. They struggle through something, get it done, and the next time struggle through again rather than analyzing what could be done better. Example: If you’re wrestling with character inconsistencies in your first draft, you’ve probably had that problem before. Did you do anything to address that before you started your new book?

You’ve forgotten what a first draft is – What does that mean? It means you’re too focused on making the first draft as good as an edited version, rather than focusing on getting it written. See, the partner idea to ‘Complete your first draft’ is ‘Don’t focus on making it good–that’s what editing is for’. If you write a paragraph and then spend more than a minute tweaking it, you’re editing. Why is this a problem (at least for me)? Because you’re going to have to edit the first draft later anyway. Why not just get the whole thing written first? (note – I’m not saying you put garbage on the page just to have something there. That’s a different problem.)

After some consideration, I realized I was doing the editing thing. A lot. And I know why: it’s because I jumped right into this project after completing extensive, months-long edits on another book. That one I wrote with little sense of what was good and what was bad, and just put one word down after another. Then I went back and made it better. And better. And… you get the idea. And that book is something I’m quite pleased with. So now, after so much time polishing text instead of writing, when working on the new manuscript my brain doesn’t want to leave an unpolished sentence on the page.

Oh, brain, you wonderful devil!

Since recognizing what I was doing, my productivity is way up (eight-thousand words this week, and it’s only Thursday!), and the extra editing is way down.

What a wonderful thing creativity is. And self-examination, too.

So, to sum up: Finishing your first draft should be you’re number one goal, but that won’t necessarily get easier over time. Awareness of bad habits can help keep you on track, though. (And no, I'm not claiming I'm breaking new ground, here. Just relaying personal experience.)

tl;dnr version: Stop editing and finish that first draft :)

Thanks for reading,


Real Writing Is Revising - Randy Ribay

I met Randy at a Writer's Conference last year (these events are terrific for networking!), and I've been following his journey as a writer ever since. His perspective on the revision process is spot on. As I tackle yet another round of edits, I've learned that most of the work in writing happens after the first draft is complete. And you know what? That's okay! The end result is a much, much better story. So thank you, Randy, for sharing your words of wisdom.
Follow Randy on twitter @randyribay, and check out his website: He is thoughtful, funny, and super talented. His young adult novel, An Infinite Number of Parallel Universes, will be on shelves this October and I can't wait to read it!

I spoke to a writers’ group the other day, and the most interesting question I received was about how my style/approach to writing has changed since going through the publication process with my first novel. Without hesitation, I answered that it was coming to understand that most of writing is revising. I told them that if I quantified all the hours I spent working on that book, less than a tenth would come from writing the first draft.

I used to equate “writing” with “composing a first draft.” Revising and editing were necessary evils that would be tacked onto the end of that process. But, to me, the meat of the process was just getting that story down. If I could put down a good enough story, then I could be a “writer.”

However, I now understand that that’s just the beginning. The meat of the process is revision. And I no longer view it as requisite tweaking, but rather as the actual place where I take something vaguely shaped like a story and shape it into an actual story. If you were to compare it to baking, writing the first draft is not the baking. It’s not even the mixing. Writing the first draft is like gathering the ingredients in front of you.

“That’s kind of discouraging,” one of the members of the group said. “Thinking of all that work you put into the first draft.”

But I told her that it was actually freeing. Understanding that the first draft doesn’t need to be good (or even kind of remotely good) allows me to write more and more quickly. I no longer stop and torture myself searching for the perfect line of dialogue or clever twist or inspiring description. I just write, and I tell myself, “Yeah, it’s crap, but whatever. I’ll fix it later.”

If you read a lot of writing advice, this probably isn’t new to you. But I didn’t learn this by reading a quote about it on Twitter. I learned it by doing it, by revising the hell out of a story until I sold it. So if you find yourself stuck with a manuscript nobody will buy, maybe you need to write another one. Or maybe you need to actually write that story.