Category Archives: 3rd Draft

Parts of a Novel: 2 of 6: Opportunity for Change

2 of 6Last time I talked about how the novel can be broken down into six parts. We also discussed how the first 5% of the novel is on The Setup. Now that the reader has fallen in love with your character and has an understanding of how your world works it’s time to present am Opportunity for Change. This Opportunity for Change is Part 2 of 6 of your novel.

Similar to part one part two is also 5% of the novel. Out of a 300 page manuscript pages 15 – 30 are here to help introduce something new to the world. That something, if pursued, will change our hero’s life and possibly their world forever.

This is the part of the story that begins to make things interesting. Each story will be different. Did your hero find a magical ring? Did the hero overhear a secret they shouldn’t? Was your hero offered a new job? Whatever the case maybe, the Opportunity for Change needs to turn your hero’s world upside down.

The change doesn’t necessarily always have to be positive. Has the hero been cursed? Have they been wrongfully imprisoned? Is their new boss a jerk? While we typically want to write in an upbeat way there are times where we have to make bad things happen. Chaos is interesting.

Whatever the change is it will be the driving force for the rest of the novel. Take my novel for example. My hero lives in an arid desert world; the Opportunity for Change comes when the hero find a book that mentions water.

The Opportunity for Change needs to always come at a cost. Pursuing the change must not be a decision that the hero can accept easily. While the hero’s first reaction may be to accept/reject the opportunity they must evaluate the consequences (good or bad) before pursuing the change. This evaluation happens in the 3rd part of the novel, which will be discussed next time.

On a side note I would like to say that the percentage for each section is more of a guideline. These percents are rough cookie cutter examples to help the pacing of the story. As the novelist it is you job to determine if the pacing needs to move quicker or slower throughout the novel.

Parts of a Novel: 1 of 6: The Setup

1 of 6All well told stories can be broken down into six sections. While there are many ways to breakdown a novel’s structure I like sticking with the six part approach. For the next six weeks I will be discussing one of the six parts to a novel. This week, part 1 of 6, is on The Setup.

The first few pages of your novel are vitally important. These pages determine if the book continues to be read or will be put back on the shelf. While every piece of your book is important your opening is probably the most important part. Without a good opening you have no story.

The Setup, while immensely important, is interestingly enough one of the smallest parts of the novel. The Setup is only about 5% of your novel. Meaning, if your manuscript is 300 pages, only about 15 pages should be dedicated to The Setup.

In these fifteen pages you have several pieces of information that needs to be shown. We need to introduce the main characters to our readers, we need to show the world where the story takes place, and most importantly our readers need to understand what the status quo of the world is.

Our readers need to form bonds and connections to our characters, to be captivated by the worlds we create, and to understand what the day to day life is like. Without laying this groundwork the reader will lose interest in the story. If you can’t draw in the reader your book will be put down, never to be picked up again.

Take a look at the novel you are currently reading. How did that author write the first 5% of their novel? Now look at the manuscript you are writing. How did you write your first 5%?

On a side note I would like to say that the percentage for each section is more of a guideline. These percents are rough cookie cutter examples to help the pacing of the story. As the novelist it is you job to determine if the pacing needs to move quicker or slower throughout the story.

Check back next week for part 2 of 6. To always stay up to date on the latest article enter subscribe to the blog. When new articles go live you will receive an email in your inbox. Any questions, comments, or feedback email me at

Stop writing and brainstorm

These last few weeks I’ve been struggling with the editing of my first chapter. Editing is an understatement. The truth is that it needs to be completely rewritten. Since the beginning of the year I have started over three times. It seemed everything that I was writing was not the true beginning of the novel. I couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t come up with a good beginning.

Up to this point I always just sat down and free wrote my novel. Meaning I just wrote what came to my mind without having an outline to guide me. While I always have an idea of where the story needs to go I usually never fully plan or outline my story. I’ve always loved the idea of the story creating itself. However, this past week I realized that while free writing may be good to write the initial story free writing doesn’t work so well during the editing process.

I’m learning that to be successful at writing you sometimes need to stop writing. One day last week instead of writing I spend an entire evening brainstorming and scribbling ideas into a notepad. At first I felt guilty that I wasn’t getting any further on my novel. I had to remind myself that taking this time to outline was vitally important.

During this evening of brainstorming I was able to reevaluate the beginning chapters of my novel. By taking a step back and taking my hands off the keyboard I was able to make my story that much better. I also took this time to look over my notes from my Alpha Readers and review my own notes. I was able to figure out what was wrong as well as what I needed to do to fix it.


Had kept going the way I had been, by just writing without planning, I would have kept writing page after page of the novel that would have been a waste to the story. While I will always advocate for free writing there are times where we need to stop writing to think of “what’s next.”

If you are stuck in your story, or if you just keep writing and not sure where the story is going, instead of writing take a step back and have a brainstorming session. You will be surprised at how much you can accomplish.

Novel Progress
Draft: Third
5.93% Complete

Remove the Block


The dreaded writer’s block. It happens to all of us. During my first draft of Dust I spent almost an entire month going nowhere. I was stuck in my story and didn’t know where to go. Another time, while writing a magazine article for work, I almost missed my deadline because I couldn’t figure out how to end the article.

Getting over writer’s block is different for each of us. Depending on the day will determine how I get over writer’s block. Writer’s block is like a snowflake each situation is unique in its own way. Meaning that getting over the block will not always end the same. Here are a few things that will help us remove our blocks and continue our writing .

Taking a break is a lifesaver. It’s amazing what a 5 minute break can accomplish. Remove yourself from your writing, do anything else but look at your writing. The short break will give your mind time to rest. The rest can help those ideas flow freely again. If it’s a really bad case of writer’s block it may take a few days before you can get back into the swing of things. If that’s the case taking a break from writing will not help.

If the block is really bad you need to continue writing. Just write something other than your main project. And whatever you do, don’t start a new large project. Write a short story, a poem, or even just random words. This secondary writing allows your mind to remain creatively active while giving your mind a break from the block at the same time.

Always keep something to write on handy. The last thing you want is for your writer’s block to end and not have anything to write your new idea down with. At home I keep a notebook and pen by my bed in case I have a good idea in the middle of the night. I also keep a waterproof notepad in my shower. (That’s right you heard me, waterproof notepad. It’s amazing.) Because some of the best ideas happen in the shower.

Not to mention that I have my phone with me everywhere I go. So when I’m at work or on the go I always can write down an idea and save it for later. Your muse might hit you at the wrong moment, so you always want to be prepared.

Experience something new. Our writing comes from our our own personal experiences. By going out and experiencing new things we add to what we know. Meaning, we add to what we can write. By going on a walk/hike or driving to a part of town that you’ve never been to before we create new memories. If you’re really adventurous try something completely new. Give skydiving a try, take up a new hobby like painting or sculpting, or save your pennies and go on a vacation to some place you’ve never been before.


As a joke I lastly recommend that you get yourself some clothespins. The theory is that using clothespins is a form of acupressure to help relieve writer’s block. To understand the joke and to relive one of the funniest shows from the 80’s watch Alf, Season 1 Episode 14. On Amazon you can buy the episode for $1.99 or the whole season for $4.99. It’s worth the money.

To help get rid of your writer’s block here is a writing prompt for you. As you go through this week listen to the conversations around you. Take a phrase or sentence that you hear and write a one to two page short story using that phrase or sentence.

If you have a topic you would like me to cover send me an email at

Novel Progress
Draft: Third
5.56% Complete

Write On

This week’s message is brought to you by my phone. This is due to me traveling out of town this weekend. My original article was going to be about writer’s block. I’m going to save that for next week. This week is going to be about the opposite, prolific writing.

I always keep something to write with on me at all times. Sometimes it’s my phone other times its pen and paper. Having writing materials on me allows me the ability to write down ideas when I’m on the go.

In the past I’ve had too many occasions where I had an idea for a new story or a new idea for a project I was already working on and I had nothing to write it down on. I would sadly forget that idea, however in the back of my mind I knew it would have been great. The same thing happens when I wake up in the middle of the night and had an amazing dream. I’ll tell myself that I will remember it in the morning. When morning comes its gone.

As writers we need to get our ideas out of our heads and onto paper. While it may be difficult to write when we are not in our designated writing space we still need to find a way to write. Don’t allow those great ideas to slip away.

I didn’t have as much time to write this article as I had hoped. I haven’t even had time to begin editing it. I just made it home from driving all day back from California and I am exhausted. I’m posting this article now, but don’t worry I plan on working on it more and will have a more in-depth article posted before Wednesday.

If anyone was wondering I wrote this article using the Android app OfficeSuite Professional. If you are looking for a good office suite app for your Android phone or tablet this one is worth the money. I’ve been using this one for the last five years.

Writing Habits: Staying Focused

One of the biggest things I struggle with when I write is staying on task. Sometimes after a few minutes into writing my mind begins to wander. While I’m more conscience of when I begin loosing focus it’s still something I have to stay on top of.

I recently tried counted how many times I got distracted within a 30 minute period. There were so many I lost count. Even now as I write this article I find myself becoming distracted. Here are a few things that have helped me stay on task.

A few articles back (Writing Habit: Getting Organized) I wrote about decluttering your desk. Keeping my writing space free from clutter has helped me tremendously. When my desk is clean I find that I am more productive in my writing than when my desk is dirty.

In order to immerse ourselves in the worlds we are trying to create we need to remove ourselves from the world we live in.

While our phones help connect us to our friends and family they also can be a huge distraction. To eliminate that distraction turn the phone off or at the very least set the ringer to silent.

PhoneI prefer putting the phone in Airplane Mode.

While I’m writing my kids and occasionally my wife have the habit of coming to me to ask me questions or need me to do something. This takes me out of my writing and in some cases causes me to lose the momentum I had been building. For Christmas my wife got me the best gift possible. It’s a simple sign that hangs on the door.

am writingIf the sign is present everyone is to keep out.

The biggest proponent of distraction is the Internet. The Internet is a double edged sword. On one side it is a helpful tool. It helps provide the necessary information needed to help you excel in your writing. On the other side it can be extremely distracting. There are countless times when I went looking for information I could use for my book. Then several hours later I realized I had been watching funny cat videos on YouTube. (In case you were wondering, my book has nothing to do with funny cats.)

DistractionIf you realize that the Internet is more of a hindrance than help just turn it off.

While all of these are helpful tips, your awareness of what you are doing is key. When writing our minds need to be focused on two things. The first and main thing is focusing on what we are writing. The second is to focus on that we are doing nothing else but writing. In the event we start to stray and get off topic we need our minds to actively tell ourselves that we need to get back to writing. This is a skill that must be practiced over and over again. This is a skill that must be mastered in order to succeed, not only in writing but in anything we are doing.

This article was a suggested topic I received though email. If you have a topic you would like me to cover send me an email at

Novel Progress
Draft: Third
4.05% Complete

A New Year, A New Start

Life, it’s a crazy thing. Right when you think you have everything under control something comes up and disrupts the whole flow of things. November was a rough month; it felt like there was a plague looming over our house. If one person was sick the rest of us were healthy. Then they would get better and someone else would get sick. It was a vicious cycle that lasted all the way up to Thanksgiving.

Since it was so long since I last updated the site I figured I would wait one more month and start fresh with the New Year. So here we are 2016. I have a lot of fun ideas of what I would like to do with this blog. A new year means it’s a time for new beginnings and new goals. There are three main things that I want to work on this year.

My Goals for 2016

     1. Read 50 Books.
I want to read more books this year. Last year I only read three books. With the books I have set aside for myself I figure I need to read roughly 43 pages a day. However, with my current schedule I may not make it quite to 50.

2. Ensure that a blog entry is posted each week.
52 entries, no exceptions. Regardless if I am sick, out of town, or the world is exploding I will have a new blog post. This means that I need to have the current week’s post ready as well as a few extra.

     3. Have Dust ready to send to publishers/agents.
My hope is that I will have the next draft of my book done by the end of June. It’s been slow going with this 3rd draft, and that’s ok. I want to go slow. I want to flush the story out, make it bigger and an all around better story. After that I will hopefully only have to do one more draft before it’s ready to send out. Fingers crossed.

As the year progresses I’m sure I’ll come up with more stuff I want to accomplish throughout the year. But what about you, what goals do you have for 2016? Feel free to send me an email at or leave a comment.

Novel Progress
Draft: Third
3.27% Complete