Writing that First Draft

Greetings, Storytellers. Diana here with NaNoWriMo looming on the horizon. Whether you’re participating in the writing marathon or not, I thought I’d give you a bit of a pep talk about writing first drafts. Gather around, and I’ll try not to scare you! Just imagine… Your fingertips rest on the keyboard. Your creative vision has […]

Writing that First Draft

Monthly Writing Prompt | November 2022

A sound calls to you from the void, pulling at you, nagging. You reach for it. Maybe you can give it a nudge and convey that you want to be left alone. But your hands find nothing, and the sound keeps battering your ears.

Muse Stimulators:

  • Who or what is making the sound?
  • What does the sound mean?
  • Where is the POV?
  • Why does the POV want to be left alone?
  • What happens next?

Happy Writing!

Ultimate Writing Tool: The Writer’s Muse Focus Deck

Let me tell you a story…

My name is MJ and I’ve been in love with storytelling since I was a child. 

I never had trouble coming up with a rough plot or concepts for my stories, but once I started the actual writing part, I would always come to a place in the story where I would realize I hadn’t worked out an important detail. So, I would backtrack and try to weave it in. More often than not, this caused a snowball of issues that would quickly become overwhelming, and I would end up starting over completely from scratch or abandoning the story altogether.

So. Frustrating. 

Does this sound familiar?

To help me figure out where I was going wrong, I started the Augusta Writer’s Critique Group on Meetup in August 2018 to collaborate with other writers, learn from them, share my experiences, and support a community that loves words and assembling them into sentences as much as I do. Now boasting over 550 members, the Augusta Writer’s Critique Group has given me the opportunity to work with many writers who have become successfully published authors. 

Augusta Writer’s Critique Group

And it’s also given me the chance to work alongside writers who get stuck just like me.

My experience as a critique host has helped me to pinpoint the key questions that successful writers answer during their planning stage and unsuccessful writers do not. 

The Writer’s Muse Focus Deck was born!

 I had 3 basic principles in mind when I was forming my vision for this project. 

1) I wanted to make a product that was straightforward and simple to use for any genre of fiction. 

I’ve acquired a lot of writing tools over the years, but a common problem in all of them was they were overcomplicated and hard to keep organized, not applicable to the genre I was writing, and most were too jargony. I found myself looking up more terms to understand those tools than doing actual research for my novel. 

Another problem, and perhaps the most impactful, was that none of these tools took my unique writing style into account, and I found the rigidness of their application very stunting for my Muse, which only added to my frustration.

The Writer’s Muse Focus Deck is simple and easy to use.

There are 54 cards, comprised of eight categories shared across all genres of fiction: 

  • Muse
  • Plot
  • Main Character
  • Side Characters
  • Antagonist
  • Macro-Level Worldbuilding
  • Micro-Level Worldbuilding
  • Exercises

The cards are color-coded by category and numbered 1-54 so you can tailor them to YOUR unique writing style:

1) Go one by one from start to finish for a more structured approach

2) Select the exact color-coded category for a targeted approach

3) Or shuffle the deck for a spontaneous or randomized approach

Whether you’re writing a children’s picture book, a gruesome horror, a complex high fantasy world, or whichever section of the bookstore you imagine your novel displayed, the Writer’s Muse Focus Deck’s questions are applicable to all genres. 

2) I wanted to make a product that would be useful for both experienced authors and new writers alike

The biggest obstacle for new writers is not having a clue what questions to ask to create cohesive narrative and compelling characters, or to introduce page-turning tension into the story to hook readers and keep them engaged until the very last word. 

Even as an experienced writer, I still need a focus; a one-stop shop to invoke my Muse and pour my inspiration out into a cohesive, complete, and clear path to novel writing success. 

When it boils down to it, writers just want to write, to complete novels and get them out into the world for reader consumption. Spending weeks or months eeking out the details of a plot or characters, then finding out halfway through a draft that something important was overlooked and major rewrites are needed to resolve them is a nonstarter. 

The Writer’s Muse Focus Deck is a smooth, fast, repeatable process that all writers can use to iron out the important details and get writing with confidence.

The deck’s eight color-coded categories address critical elements of storytelling shared across all genres of fiction. No matter how complex your story, this deck is specific enough to uncover the finer details, and high level enough to reuse multiple times in your planning stage to address more complexities if needed.

  • Four separate planets? Run through the Macro-level worldbuilding questions for each one. 
  • Eight main characters? The Main Character cards will enable you to give each one their own unique voice. 
  • Six antagonists? The Antagonist cards will help you sort out all of their devious intentions. 

3) I wanted to make a product that could be valuable for every stage of the writing process

As an experienced writer, I fully understand that a first draft is not a perfect specimen, no matter how meticulous your planning stage or process is. Once you start writing, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of the story and move your fingers faster than your brain can keep up. A few things are bound to need a bit more fleshing out after that first draft is done.

That’s why I also wanted a product that would help writers revise their first draft, and pinpoint exactly what needs more development to polish their efforts into something that’s ready to send to an editor, a beta reader, or an agent.  

The Writer’s Muse Focus Deck lets you easily identify areas in your narrative that need more development so you can get to work on your next revision with a clear focus. 

So where am I in the production process?

The Kickstarter has officially launched!!!!! And you can see it for yourself by clicking here: Kickstarter Campaign

Watch the video!

The questions are written, and the vendor who will be printing them selected. 

The decks pictured in the photographs above are prototypes

I’m still narrowing down the cardstock I want the cards printed on. I have experimented with two different cardstock options so far: smooth and linen. 

The linen cardstock is by far the more durable and pleasant to touch than the smooth, but it’s slightly more expensive. 

I’m waiting on a third prototype made of eco-herbage cardstock to arrive to determine if the durability is up to the standards required for novelists who will be using this product again and again. 

Follow the Kickstarter to be updated when I receive the eco-herbage prototype and compare all the options.

Pledge your support for this product on Kickstarter and reserve your Writer’s Muse Focus Deck to experience how this game-changing card deck can help you focus your muse and get writing!!!

Available on Kickstarter!

Editing Series | Chapter 24

The second video of my Editing Series is live!

Chapter 24 is a first draft that I haven’t read since I finished writing it during NaNo 2020. This short video describes the main issues I encountered during editing.

If you want to skip to a helpful writing tip, you can jump to 2:18. 🙂

I will be posting a post-critique group video on this same chapter in the future to let you all know what they had to say about it. I’m anxious to learn what my first round of editing missed that they are able to catch. I’m so grateful to my critique group, they truly are an amazing group of writers and are such an incredible resource for me.

If you enjoyed this video, please like and subscribe and I’ll see you in a future video!

If this series is helpful for you and you want to learn more about how I can help you polish your novel:

-Check out my writing services

-Follow me on twitter

Happy Writing!


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Editing | An Introduction

Are you struggling with identifying why the novel you completed during NaNoWriMo isn’t ready for publication? Are you curious if other writers experience the same first draft issues that you do?

I am launching a new series on my YouTube Channel: Editing Series (kinda lame name but oh well) which will explore exactly that and offer some writing tips along the way.

I finished a rough draft of my novel during NaNoWriMo 2020 and it needs a lot of work, but I’ve made it my goal to get this novel ready to start querying agents in 2022.

If you are interested in learning how I am going about reaching that goal, and what issues I encounter along the way, please subscribe to my YouTube channel because I will be breaking down each chapter’s issues as I complete them in the hope that it will help me stay on track for my publication goal, and also provide insight into what might be missing from your first draft.

Check out my Introduction video below to learn more:

If you enjoyed this video, please like and subscribe and I’ll see you in a future video!

If this series is helpful for you and you want to learn more about how I can help you polish your novel:

-Check out my writing services

-Follow me on twitter

Happy Writing!


Make a one-time donation

Your contribution is appreciated.


Make a monthly donation

Your contribution is appreciated.

Donate monthly

Make a yearly donation

Your contribution is appreciated.

Donate yearly

Let’s Talk About Nanowrimo

Nanowrimo. Just hearing the word makes me wince. National November Writing Month is the most exhausting month of the year for many writers. Why? Because 50,000 words in one month is a LOT. That’s 1,666 words a day on average.

But wait MJ, you may say, I can pump out 1,666 words easy in a sit down!

But can you do it everyday for a whole month?

Now, some people can, and many people do, and they do it successfully. For myself, when I tried doing it last year I managed to get in 32,000 words by the end of November. And gurl was it ROUGH. I actually decided to go ahead and keep up the pace through December, determined to finish my novel by the end of 2020. And I did it! Accomplishing a total of 56,000 words if memory serves.

And I’ve scarce touched my manuscript since. Why?


I have had 0 willpower to start revising that manuscript. I have spoken with others who managed to complete Nano and their stories are often similar: They managed to complete a book, but haven’t touched it since due to various “life” things that take precedence over a relationship with the novel that left them feeling exhausted, used, and undervalued after putting so much effort and investment into it.

In many cases, as in mine, the draft is just way too rough and the revision process ahead too overwhelming to really know where to begin. The technical debt we accumulate during that month in our frenzy to “just keep going” so we can “finish it” more often than not leads to many scenes, plots, and sometimes whole endings, that are completely unsalvageable. And so the “finished novel” is laid aside for “when I have time to revise (or rewrite) it.” Which is never.

And then for everyone who didn’t actually finish a novel or accomplish 50,000 words, we feel like failures, equally as exhausted as the person who did finish, but without a complete manuscript to show for it, and often the feeling that writing a novel is just too much work altogether. And so writing as a whole is put on the back burner.

So how do we fix this problem? How do we, as writers, proactively stop ourselves from forging an unhealthy relationship with our future novel and our writing practice as a whole? How do we come out of Nano feeling proud of what we accomplished; that our time and energy was well spent; and that the draft in our hands is actually something worth revising?

Think about Nanowrimo differently.

Word count is nice, but who cares about word count if at the end of it all you want nothing to do with that novel ever again and you’re surrounded by mounds of dirty clothes, crusted dishes, and neglected family and friends who are seriously contemplating a formal intervention?

Rather than word count, rather than completing a (trash) novel, focus simply on writing every day. Let this be your goal for Nanowrimo.

But MJ, that’s a no brainer. I was already planning to write everyday.

Is it though?

Let’s think about it. November is also the time when family and friends are gathering for Thanksgiving, travelling, cooking, buying Christmas presents, etc. For college students, November is when research papers and projects are starting to loom and stress us out. There’s a lot of days that are prone to 0 word counts. So let’s really be real about what our expectations are.

Do this instead:

If you are planning on participating in Nanowrimo this month, make a plan right now to devote at least 10 minutes to writing every single day of November. Clearly, this is not enough time to write 1,666 words. Get it in your head that it’s not about the word count. It’s about making writing a daily habit, practicing writing, and keeping your story present in your mind everyday. 10 minutes doesn’t have to be the stopping place, but make it where you start every day.

10 minutes is easy enough to fit in among all the business happening in November, so stop worrying about how much time you need to carve to write 1,666 words. That’s overwhelming just by itself.

Make sure you have Google docs or some other writing program on your phone, and get to writing during a bathroom break. You’ll be staring at your phone screen anyway, might as well be writing.

And if you’re not able to get to it again that day, you will still have accomplished your goal of 10 minutes. Still made progress. Still made writing a priority.

At the end of Nanowrimo, your story will have progressed, and your writing become a manageable and sustainable routine that you can carry forward beyond November.

For more on this, check out my youtube video by clicking the play button below.

Now THAT is a Nanowrimo success story.

Happy Writing!