Tag Archives: first draft

Confession on Exposition

I have to confess to the world the hardest part of writing to me… exposition. Description of places, buildings, areas, anything that doesn’t deal directly with the plot of characters. I just don’t like doing it. Why? I have no idea. I understand that it has to be there. I’ve read tons of books and sat in on lots of lectures at conferences about it. It just doesn’t come easy for me.

I don’t even like to read a lot of description. I remember the first time I actually recognized my ‘non-love’ of exposition. I was already several years in to being a beginning writer and my inner editor was occasionally appearing when I would read other author’s books. I was reading a Sue Grafton book, one of her alphabet series murder mysteries. Kinsey was travelling through the desert in her VW. For two pages or more, Grafton described the desert. I was so bored and wondered why she had spent so much time on this description. I skimmed the pages and later wondered why. So I reread it. To me, it was over kill. Tell me she is in the desert. Give me a short description of it if necessary or if anything is needed for the plot or will make a statement on the character. Tell me it’s hot. I know what the desert is… and move on.

I realize that in some genres, the setting is a character itself. Like paranormal. Using description sets the stage and gets the reader in the spooky mood. Horror and science fiction are the same way. I get it. But in other genre’s, like murder mysteries, some of the descriptions of places are not as necessary to draw out, for instance an interrogation room in a police station. Everyone knows what they look like from watching TV. And yes, usually TV doesn’t get it right. (That’s true for a lot of things in Law and Order type shows… and the cops are happy about it too. Makes the criminals make stupid mistakes!) Anyway, a few sentences is all it takes to describe the room. Boom. Done. Move on.

Is description necessary? Absolutely! Of course it is necessary. Stories would be really stupid without it. But too much is … well, just too much. Here is how I write it. (And again, remember this is not my favorite thing to write.)

My first draft contains very little description. Maybe a line that says … they walked into an interrogation room. I move on. The second draft I will add a little more but I am still concentrating on plot, character development, red herrings (murder mysteries, remember), etc. On the third or later drafts I actually begin thinking of how my description needs to fit into the story. This is where I do the work of fleshing out the description. After that I usually hear from my editor that I need to add more. So I do so then. Finally it’s done.

Now this is how it goes for me. You may be the complete opposite. I have a writer friend that writes excellent exposition. I mean awesome description. She writers paranormal and we usually have to pare her stuff down a little bit (not much but some). The bottom line here is you need to find the best way to write for you. Each and every writer writes differently. Just remember to not use so much description that it pulls the reader away from the story. It’s a balancing act and that is what makes writing an art!

Stay tuned.

Check out our newest author—Guy Gertsch and his book A Mississippi Immortal in Europe. When the Grouch, who lives in a cottage behind his daughter’s house, wakes up one morning, he believes he’s Tom Sawyer. There is a renewed excitement in his life as he discovers Europe through Mark Twain’s eyes, following in the same path that Twain took while writing The Innocents Abroad. Each step is one of self discovery and adventure believing those he runs into are straight out of the fun filled characters like Becky, Huck, Aunt Polly and more. On his travels, he begins to question his ‘immortality’ as a story book character. Can ‘Tom’ remain immortal? Or will ‘Tom’ find something during his adventures that will allow him to return to his normal life, now happy and content?

Angela Abderhalden
Author of the Mel Addison Mystery Series
Acquiring Editor, Seventh Wave Books, LLC


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Keep Writing

Writing is not easy. Any writer can tell you that. Everyone thinks that they can just sit down and write a novel. And the beginning is usually the easiest to write. But it takes perseverance to work all the way through a full manuscript.

As you work through the first couple of chapters of the book, you must expand the plot, bring out character flaws, create drama, conflicts, sub-plots, etc. And at the same time you have to weave all of these together into a cohesive group of words that not only makes sense but also keeps the readers attention at all times and make them want to keep reading. It’s a complex and time consuming job.

There’s a famous saying that goes like this: ‘Writing is easy. All you do it sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.’ This was said by Gene Fowler. And it is so true. There are many times that it truly does feel like this. Don’t let it discourage you, keep writing. Keep that blood flowing.

Another thing about writing that no one tells you, is the soul searching that you must do as you write. Every character takes a piece of you. Each and every one. And there are scenes that in order to make them believable and true to life, you must dig deep inside of yourself and touch a part of yourself that you don’t want to. Many writers will take the easy way out and just skim the surface, but not if you want to be a successful writer. You must dig and bleed and put it on paper so that your reader will also feel the same. You must feel, so that your reader can feel too.

If you aren’t willing to expose your deepest, darkest secret, at least sort of, then don’t even start your manuscript. You must put yourself, literally, into each and every scene. If you cry, laugh, cringe or whatever, at a scene then so will your reader.

It is that important. Really. Bleed on that manuscript. Make yourself cry. Laugh. Be embarrassed. It will be important in the end when you hear from your readers that they could really understand what the character was feeling.

It makes all the effort worth it. So right now, don’t take the easy way. Keep writing with feeling. It will pay off.

Stay tuned.

Angela Abderhalden is the author of the Mel Addison Mystery Series and Acquiring Editor for Seventh Wave Books, LLC

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Still On The First Draft Beginning…

Okay, so you’ve written the first draft. You’re ready to go back and find your starting place. Don’t get discouraged if you restart your manuscript several times. Questionable Ethics, the first in the Mel Addison Mystery Series, had seven beginnings before I finally settled on the one that it has. They all started in the same scene, just differently.

First, it wasn’t a good hook. Two or three drafts later, I had a good beginning hook but had to work on the first line. That was another two drafts. Finally I narrowed it down to the one that ended up the as the finished product. I thought I would never be satisfied with it. Then it happened. It was good.

Most beginning writers go through this process, so don’t let it get you down. Even now after I’ve been writing for this long, I still rewrite the beginnings several times. I’ve generally can get it to just two or three drafts now. The latest in the series, the beginning was spot on, I just needed to work on the first sentence hook.

Here is what separates the hobbyist writers from the professional writers. Hobbyist writers are willing to get it mostly right, but since they aren’t really trying to get published they’re willing to stop at okay. And there is nothing wrong with that. However, if you are wanting to get published, you must be patient with the process and continue working until you know, I mean really know, that it’s the best it can be. Sometimes that means letting your agent/editor tell you it’s ready. And that’s okay too.

It is still a process. A craft. A work in progress. And we are only talking about the first draft and the beginning. There is still the rest of the manuscript to come.

Stay tuned.

Angela Abderhalden the author of the Mel Addison Mystery Series and an Acquiring Editor for Seventh Wave Books, LLC

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So You Want To Write A Book…

For the next few weeks I’ll go into detail about how to write a manuscript. Your first question is what is the difference between a book and a manuscript? A manuscript is what your story is before it is published. A book is what your manuscript becomes once you actually are published. Not a big difference in description except to professionals. So if you want to be a professional, then you need to start using the terms of a professional.

Let’s talk about the first draft. This is the very beginning of your manuscript. For the first draft, just write. Get it down on paper. Don’t worry about spelling, grammar, punctuation, etc. All of the nitpicky stuff will come later. This is the time to just write.

When I write, I write the first draft for me. That sounds weird but it’s the truth. I add stuff that I know will get cut or suspect will get cut but I enjoy the idea of escaping into the world I’m writing about. So I just write. I don’t worry about the beginning, if it sags in the middle, scene and chapter breaks or even all of the plot twists. Since I don’t like exposition, I almost never add much description about things like setting and stuff. In my mind’s eye, I know what it looks like and just get the plot and characters down on paper.

Now this may not be your style of writing. I am not a plotter. I am a pantser. What, you ask? I write by the seat of my pants, so to speak. I do not sit down and do an outline of the story, craft scene outlines, or outline the entire manuscript from middle to end. I do not even always write my story in complete order as when it is finished. I usually know the main character, who ‘dunit’ (remember I write mysteries) and why and usually the climax. Sometimes that’s it when I start my manuscript. This is what works for me.

If you are truly a new beginner then you need to find out what works for you. So beware of writing books out there that say, ‘this is how you write a book’. (Notice the terms.) There is no one way to write a manuscript. Find what works for you and stick to it.

Back to the first draft. However you do it, do it. Write it. Get it down on paper from some sort of beginning to some sort of end, even if the middle is lacking. Get it down. Do understand that this is a first draft, so don’t fall in love with any thing in this draft. What I mean by that is that you need to realize that almost everything will change from a first draft. Don’t be so much in love with your own words that you can’t cut something. Because coming up in the second draft, that’s what you need to do. Cut and rewrite

But for now enjoy the first draft. Do it for YOU and you alone. Really enjoy the experience of escaping into your own made up world and live in your manuscript. Enjoy. Because all too soon, the second draft will be here.

Stay tuned.

Angela Abderhalden is the author of the Mel Addison Mystery Series and Acquiring Editor for Seventh Wave Books, LLC

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