A few weeks ago I shared my step-by-step plan on how I’m going to finish the next book. The goal was that by sharing this plan with my readers, I would be forced to stick to my guns and actually work on the book. And I was right. If I didn’t have this deadline hanging over my head I definitely wouldn’t have worked on the book today, that I can promise you with a lot of confidence. Before I share hints of how the first step went, allow me to remind you what was on my list.
Please note that I’m working on the (published, you can read it here) first draft: Chocolate Chip Cookies and Pink Nails which means there will be spoilers. The idea of the story is out there (and so is the ending) but I will keep any new details I’m going to add as a surprise.
Step 1: (Three weeks: 1 April to 22 April)
- Reread/revise old notes
- Reread the entire first draft and write new notes (new perspective/ideas?)
- Reread the second draft (4) chapters and write notes (on the right path?)
Feedback from Friend X:
- M needs a clear moment where she realizes she’s in love with Zack before his death.
- More filler chapters. It’s too abrupt.
- Maybe a funeral for Zack. The story needs a well-rounded ending.
Feedback from Friend Y:
- Overload of information right from the start. A lot of names in one go. Had to make a list to digest everything. Who is X and what do they mean to the main character? Who is the main character?
- Confusion with Dad and Daddy Dearest. Dad in office. Daddy Dearest in kitchen. The difference between names leads to confusion, who is who and where are they?
- Finer details. Legal drinking age. Alcohol?
- Further confusion between Dad and Daddy Dearest character names.
- Establishing characters even if they’re only there for one scene.
- Explain Zack’s motivation, history and etc. Why is he willing to get into drag? How does this effect his military image? Go into his character more. Who is he?
- Time jumps. Abrupt transitions from one scene to another.
- More build-up on Zack/M’s bucket list trip to New York. What about all the special experiences that only the city has to offer?
- Time jumps. Transition between days/time is abrupt. Quote: “I get the feeling that the story goes from party to bed, to party to bed, to musical to bed. Like why not make this start with the walk or metro trip home.”
- It’s quick jumps from big scene/moment to another. No rest moments to reflect on the big scene/moment. The story needs more fillers/breathing moments.
- Smoother transitions from scene to scene!
- Reaction to big changes/moments that are negative or uncomfortable needs to be explained. Why does M react that why? More personality builds up and deeper idea of who the main character is will help with this.
- Where is this story taking place? Where do they live?
- More structure to the timeline.
- Main character’s personality, history and motivation should be clearer. There is a lot of confusion. Quote: “Now I’m thinking like, you’re the real daughter of the Daddy dearest, who was the drag queen (and in the military(?)) in the past, but he once did have a relationship with a female. As well as having the other son Mason. But the other dad seemed more realistic to have this as he had less of the drag queen attitude. Like drag queens are more likely to be just gay and awfully over the top and not bisexual? But then he must be bisexual then.”
- More confusion between Dad and Daddy Dearest characters, history, personality and motivation. Quote: “Okay so now her real dad is the dad and not the daddy dearest? And the mason is the daddy dearest’s son. I’m still confused by it all as they are too similar of names – one of them was called Rick, right? Can’t the real dad be dad and the step dad be with a name? lol mi curious what others reading this story thought about this issue.”
- More explanation on character’s reaction to certain scene/moments good and bad.
- Fillers. Establish main character.
- Facts. How long does X take? Ex. nose break and surgery. Hospital trip, healing time, procedure and etc.
- School timeline. Overall timeline should be improved.
- Story jumps to quickly.
- Important side-character that hold importance to the main character shouldn’t be introduced to late. Ex. Sasha’s father – M is supposedly super close to the Wilson family. But he is only mentioned now almost at the end?
- Timeline = weather/season!
- Realistic reaction. Ex. Response to a crime. Quote: “Realistically with stab wounds this would have already have been done at the hospital and your statements would have already been taken by the police and area searched for the guy with the knife. I believe it is classed as it is attempted murder (?)”
- Quick jumps from scene to scene. The story needs more time for the character to reflect back to certain scene/moments. Breathing moments or fillers will go a long way.
- Needs a better well-rounded ending!
- Themes/messages shouldn’t be too subtle or should at least be acknowledged. If you’re not looking for it or don’t have personal first-hand experience, will you notice the signs?
Feedback from the Husband:
- More Sasha before boyfriend. What was their relationship like? How did it change? The loss of friendship will hit deeper…
- More history of young M. Get your facts straight. M’s backstory. Daddy dearest is technically her uncle.
- Cancer grandma? Homophobia. A villain and conflict = personal growth.
- Special occasions: Public holidays, birthday’s, big school events (prom).
- Timeline jumps. Smoother transitions.
- More fillers.
- Get M’s backstory right. A rejected baby in a ditch? Later on, she orphaned by a car accident? One of the dads technically her uncle who adopted her?
- Texting bits in a different form? Is it easy to digest?
- Intro is a bit weird. I can’t tell you why though. Something just feels off.
- Dad and Daddy Dearest confusion. Spend more time giving the characters shape. Personality, motivation, a name would be nice. Dad is a lawyer? Daddy Dearest a chef?
- Arrived to Sasha’s place by bicycle. Okay so they live close by. Where is this story taking place? Somewhere in Europe? Is it safe to get from point A to point B by bicycle is the question, I guess?
- A better idea of the surroundings can go very far as fillers or transitions. The neighborhood. The two main characters house or at very least their bedrooms. A clear picture of their area and how they interact with it will help. Maybe it will be fun to make their homes in Sims? (She says as she wants to play in build mode because it’s been a while).
- Own essay – come on Cas don’t be lazy. Maybe play around with different styles when you jump from texting, essay and then the actual story? Would it be too much?
- M’s future plans. What is she passionate about? What are her hobbies? What is she good at? Is her talent singing? Does she want to pursue a singing career or is just for fun? What “type” of singing? What is her voice like? Honestly rethink the whole singing talent because that’s going to be difficult to do justice. Does she want to study? If so, what? Apparently, she likes to travel. Where did this passion come from?
- Relationship with Sasha before her relationship with John. What is their friendship like? How/why or when did M fall in love?
- How did Zack go from best friend’s brother to close friend? Maybe spend more than two seconds on this.
- The one-week trip away. Destination is flexible but activities should also match a bit with the place you’re visiting. What does only this place have to offer?
- Fix the time jumps or abrupt scene changes.
- I actually really like the food fight scene. It hurts when your characters live your random dream.
- Zack character should be super clear by now. Is he comfortable with his masculinity where he is comfortable wearing whatever? Should it be said or does the actions portray this enough? Again, I don’t actually hate this scene. The recurring problem of time jumps and abrupt scene changes should be addressed though.
- Zack and his social media…It only really came up on the trip and nowhere else. It’s okay if that’s the case but explain it as in maybe it’s a travel Instagram? Maybe it’s just here is all the fun stuff I do? I don’t know add some logic, I guess?
- “Pop” references. Famous celebrity gives birth. Commit to a rough time when the story takes place and make sure references are accurate to that time. It’s a nice touch.
- I really love this scene. A good flirting scene with pick up nails is my favorite and is definitely going to happen in almost every book I’m going to write.
- In this chapter Zack is flirting with another girl? Does he like M? His feelings, omblivious to the main character but obvious to the readers needs to be constant or at least explain. Readers see that in chapter x and y he obviously has feelings for M but now he is flirting with some stranger in the club?
- Finer detail: legal drinking age. We’ve established their age, and where they’re visiting, if New York legal age is 21. With that logic, M wouldn’t even be allowed in. Fake ID then?
- Zack’s history and backstory. Did he enlist in the army?
- I love this dancing competition moment. Maybe reference to the inspiration (Grease) for extra points?
- Add finer details. Where did they get the dress? Did Zack just show up with M’s dress? Did they buy it at a thrift store? If so, was it dry cleaned before she wore it for how many hours? Also spend more time at the competitions. Fixing the recurring problem should solve this problem here.
- How long are they away at this trip? When is it? March? What is the weather like? What time of the year is it? Where are they staying. Filler or extra information can serve as great breathing moments to enjoy big scenes and moments.
- Again, love this scene. Same problem as before, is Zack comfortable dressing up in drag? Similar question that Friend Y pointed out. If Zack is an army guy, what would the response be?
- Also, suddenly one of the dads is/was into drag? Totally okay but the way it was brought up was a bit to quick.
- Sing along to songs, as in share lyrics. Is it okay? I like the “pop” reference though.
- Transitions from scene to scene. More breathing moments to process big moments. M’s sees all the pictures and finally gets a hint of Zack’s feelings. And then boom, overcoming stage fright fear.
- Kiss scene. Jump. Sky diving. Recuring problem rearing it ugly head once more. Surprise!
- Big hair transformation. Jump. First tattoo and a matching tattoo at that.
- Fight with Sasha. It’s okay but can be better.
- Two months later jump. Come on, don’t be so lazy. What is M’s school life? Does she have other friends? Add more fillers. Also, the jump between chapters is a bit weird. Chapter 8, 9 and 10 crazy adventure stuff is happening and in chapter 11, she fights with best friends and suddenly it’s two months later and Zack likes to box now? Allow the readers to breathe.
- Finer details: Realistic shit please. If Zack is going to box, actually read up about boxing. Don’t just pull shit out of your ass.
- Sasha’s pregnancy reveal. Jump. One dad had an affair and has a son.
- Mason (Dad’s son that they just found out about and just appeared) instant friends? A bit unrealistic…Like here is my back story okay we’re family now?
- Dad (the cheater) moved out and now M hates him? More moments of their relationship will make his betrayal and her reaction make more sense. Also, now I (so definitely the readers) don’t really care.
- I love the wholesome moment M has with the other dad though. More of those scenes with the main side-characters throughout the book would be perfect though.
- What time of the year is it? What’s happening in school? Exams? School events? Holidays? The story desperately needs a proper timeline.
- Also, parents are getting a divorce. It’s feels very abrupt. The story is just very fast passed. Something big happens in every single chapter which isn’t too crazy but it’s big moment, jump, big moment, jump, big moment and etc.
- Nothing specific to comment on in this one. Just maybe M finally catching up to Zack’s inner turmoil? Is the message clear enough to the reader?
- The usual problem, other than that nothing specific to report. Maybe well M gets a dog but she’s going away soon? Possibly travel/possibly to study? Is she moving out after high school?
- Nose breaking scene. Just make sure it’s realistic. Sasha miscarriage scene. Again realistic. How far along was she? Did she pass the fetus via medication or did was the fetus removed via surgery? How did she lose the baby? Just one of those things or was there an accident? Just spend some time on this.
- Mugger scene. Make it realistic. Police response? Ambulance?
- M needs a moment where she realizes she loves Zack. Story needs a better ending. We’re not going to end it on too much of a cliffhanger okay.
- I like it. It’s a good start and introduces all the main (- side characters) quite flawlessly. Good job Cas! The time jump isn’t the worst in the world but it’s not needed. Add a paragraph or two to just leave it out. So, add a filer.
- Again, a job well done. Just need to fix the two dad’s confusion problem.
- I really like it. I do notice the same pattern popping up that the story is going a bit quickly but it’s not nearly as bad as it was with the first draft. I think a good rule is going to have one “breathable” moment per chapter.
- Essay moment. Commit on how I’m going to share flashbacks or specific moments. If it’s going to be an essay it needs to be realistic. What would you share with your teacher? How personal would you get? Also, word count. My essays at school were 350-500 words if I remember correctly. Maybe a good replacement could be a blog? She can then be super personal and stuff while hiding it from family and friends. The modern diary. I really like the idea of having a different style for the texting and essay, so how will we showcase the blog? As research, look at different blogs to get a style idea. And then find something that you can replicate in an easy format between the text. Nothing to overwhelming or distracting. Instagram diary? WordPress blog? Tumbler? With most of these options you share a picture with the entry. How would you do that? This is getting too complicated.
- Also how long is this book going to be? How many pages per chapters? A good plan with a timeline is going to help in the next run through.
- Fun fact. In the second draft I wrote 3 chapters (15 pages) and only really replaced the first chapter of the first draft.
And with that, we finish step one of the plan. How exciting! I can’t tell you how incredibly happy I am to get back to my writing. I missed it so much and I’m dying to start but I’m getting all my ducks in the row before we’re going to swim, for a change. Usually, I just jump into a story but that’s the difference between a first draft and something you’re asking people to pay for.
What’s next? My tasks for step two are: create a timeline, plan out my chapters, and to do a lot of research. This is also when I’m going to plan my surroundings more. So, where is this story taking place? I will definitely use this step as an excuse to play around in Sims, I mean I should get a layout of the main character’s surroundings, right? I gave myself three weeks for this step, starting 22 April to 13 May. I saw with the first step, depending on what I had going on with school, the schedule was a bit tight but saying that I also put in the effort to make the deadline sooooo-
Thank you so much for reading and I will see you in a little over three weeks with the next update. Take care and stay safe!