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#FirstDraft90: Days 1-30 Prep Work Schedule

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Welcome to FirstDraft90!

Whether you’re planning to write your own story during the next ninety days, or you’re just following along with my progress, August 1 is the beginning of the process.

As in each first-draft challenge I’ve done in the past, the first thirty days is all about the prep work. In order to make sure that we can start writing the first draft on Day 31 with as much momentum as possible, each day for the next thirty days will have specific tasks to complete in order to get to know our characters, our plot, and our story world as much as possible. This should allow us to write more freely (and faster) later.

If you’d like, you can follow the original prep schedule for FirstDraft60/120, which you can find here or by clicking the FirstDraft60 link near the top of the website (if you’re on a mobile device, the link could be down below the post).

Because I’ve now done this a couple of times, I’ve modified the schedule to something that I hope will suit my process a little better—especially since I’ve already written detailed story ideas (I still have a few minutes in which to choose one before it’s officially August 1) and done a microscopic amount of preliminary research for each one.

My Schedule for 30 Days of Prep

Day 1 (Tuesday 8/1): Create a OneNote notebook for the story with the following pages/sections:
Revisions Notebook, Style Sheet, and Research Repository
Story Bible—Characters, Setting, Props

Day 2 (Wednesday 8/2): Story Structure & Timeline

Day 3 (Thursday 8/3): Continue/Finish Story Structure & Timeline

Day 4 (Friday 8/4): Complete Structure/Timeline, if needed. Create lists of all characters, setting; create style guide

Day 5 (Saturday 8/5): Four Character Building Questions

Day 6 (Sunday 8/6): Hero SHAPE Chart

Day 7 (Monday 8/7): Heroine SHAPE Chart

Day 8 (Tuesday 8/8): Timer TuesdayDraft Write opening scene of Novella

Day 9 (Wednesday 8/9): Update Story Bible

Day 10 (Thursday 8/10): Characters’ Physical Descriptions

Day 11 (Friday 8/11): Ambitions, Inducements, and Entanglements (GMC)

Day 12 (Saturday 8/12): Heroine Backstory

Day 13 (Sunday 8/13): Hero Backstory

Day 14 (Monday 8/14): Create Writing Schedule

Day 15 (Tuesday 8/15): Timer TuesdayDraft Write continuing scene from last Tuesday, or a different opening scene (no editing of work from last week allowed, only notes for changes in the revision notebook permitted)

Day 16 (Wednesday 8/16): Update Story Bible (and Skype with Mom for her birthday!)

Day 17 (Thursday 8/17): Rewrite/revise story premise

Day 18 (Friday 8/18): Detailed story outline/storyboards/seven beats

Day 19 (Saturday 8/19): Write 25-, 50-, 150-, and 300-word marketing blurbs; revise premise/synopsis if needed

Day 20 (Sunday 8/20): Setting specifics: research, images, etc.

Day 21 (Monday 8/21): Research (era, events, costumes, etiquette, customs, etc.)

Day 22 (Tuesday 8/22): Timer TuesdayDraft Write continuing scene from last Tuesday, or a different opening scene (no editing of previous work allowed, only notes for changes in the revision notebook permitted)

Day 23 (Wednesday 8/23): Update Story Bible

Day 24 (Thursday 8/24): Storyboard all known scenes

Days 25–30 (Friday 8/25 — Wednesday 8/30): Review tasks and previous work and complete anything not yet finished; set up Pinterest board(s); collect images; review character info and add to or revise if needed; Timer Tuesday on 8/29 . . .

#FirstDraft90 Starts August 1! | #amwriting #FD90 #writingchallenge #writinggoals

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Because I unexpectedly decided to buy a house this year, a lot of my original goals for the first seven months had to be set aside in favor of house hunting, packing, cleaning, moving, and unpacking (who am I kidding—the unpacking will be going on for quite some time!). Oh, and just when I thought I’d be able to get back on track in July, I had to travel for work and took in a foster dog.

But now August is almost upon us, which means there’s no time like the present to open up the calendar I set for myself at the beginning of the year and get on schedule with my goals for the rest of the year. And what did I have scheduled from August 1 to December 31, 2017? Why, planning, writing, and revising a novella! Which brings us to . . .

FirstDraft90: August–October 2017
Choosing a Story

The last time we did FirstDraft60/120, my main goal was to do something “writing related” every day. I didn’t quite reach that goal completely, but I did accomplish something pretty important—I wrote a whole bunch of story ideas. So my task for today and Monday is to figure out which story I want to work on beginning on Tuesday. The choices are:

Working title: Her Independent Heart
Eleanor Ransome would rather run away from her beloved home than face the man her parents want her to marry—the son of their closest friends, James Yates. James follows her to Philadelphia—but can he win her independent heart?

James Yates = Arthur Darvill
Eleanor Ransome = Karen Gillan (adjusted for hair/eye color)


Working Title: Secrets of His Heart
Newly arrived in London, Edward Ransome, eldest son of British Naval Hero Sir William Ransome, is the toast of the town—and the most sought-after bachelor of the season. Clara Eckley-Hibbitt has been overlooked by society for her step-mother, Cordelia, ever since they came out together, leading Clara to bury herself in academic pursuits. Although Edward is dazzled by Cordelia, it’s Clara who creates sparks inside him—sparks of annoyance, irritation, vexation, and . . . delight. When a saboteur seems to be undermining Edward’s business, will it be Clara or Cordelia who will help him find the culprit—and discover the secrets of his heart?

Cordelia Pembroke Eckley-Hibbit = Holliday Grainger
Edward William Ransome = Tom Mison
Clara Eckley-Hibbitt = Catherine Steadman


Working Title: An Antiquities Affair
Olivia Ahern loves rocks. Old stones, to be exact. From the first time she saw Stonehenge to her many visits to the castle ruins on her family’s estate, Olivia has lived in a world in which the past is more real to her than the present. But the antiquarian society she founded in her village brings in an outsider to help uncover and protect a cache of ancient Roman artifacts that she discovered—he’s a hulk of a man with unfashionably long blond hair named Charles Lott Cochrane. Charles never wanted a war. But now he’s in the middle of one and must choose which side of the battle he’s really on. Will his focus on the past keep him from finding his future?

Charles Lott Cochrane = Chris Hemsworth
Olivia Ahern = Elsa Pataky


Working Title: My Fair . . . Lady?
Michael Edward Witherington is traveling the Old World to find antiquities and treasures to send back to his family’s company in America. When he meets a beautiful, dark-haired young woman in Florence, Italy, he believes he’s finally found the woman of his dreams—a maid in the household of Colin and Susan Yates, the Earl and Countess of Childers. However, when he meets her again in London, he discovers that his Mary is actually the Lady Marianne Yates. Marianne didn’t mean to deceive Michael. But she’s also spent the last three years not knowing if the men asking for her hand want her or her family’s money and status. Can she convince Michael to forgive her—and see that she is the same person, no matter what name she answers to?

Michael Witherington = Michiel Huisman
The Lady Marianne Yates = Sophie Turner


Working Title: When First We Met
Kit Cochrane left England four years ago after a potential suitor turned menacing, nearly strangling her when she turned down his proposal. It now seems safe for her to return and retake her place in society. Philip Grantly is grateful when Admiral Ned Cochrane, his commander from his last years in the Royal Navy, hires him to hunt down the man threatening the admiral’s daughter. However, the job takes on a new and more personal urgency when he realizes he’s falling in love with her. Can he protect her while also showing her how to trust—and love—again?

Catherine “Kit” Cochrane = Jessica de Gouw
Philip Grantly = Oliver Jackson-Cohen

Working Title: The Doctor and the Scotsman
Having successfully posed as a man in order to attend medical school, Adeline Witherington has arrived in a small Northern Kentucky town ready to take her place as “Dr. Henry Witherington.” It isn’t long before she discovers that one of the plantation owners, a burly Scotsman named Broderick McLaren, has a secret that could ruin him—and that she’s starting to develop feelings for him. When Adeline’s true identity is revealed to the community, can marrying Brodie save her—and the people they’ve both sworn to protect?

Adeline Henrietta “Henry” Witherington = Jaimie Alexander
Broderick McLaren = Sullivan Stapleton

Working Title: Learning to Love
The tenements and dockyards of Boston are full to overflowing with Irish immigrants in the summer of 1848. Recovering from a life-threatening wound suffered in the war with Mexico, Captain Jack Witherington does his best to avoid the crowds of Irishmen begging him for work at the Charlestown Navy Yard—until one day he falls victim to a brutal attack. Ellen Delaney rescues the handsome naval officer and takes him home to her doctor father to recover. Can Ellen, a teacher in the Irish charity school, teach Jack to set his prejudice aside? Or will Jack allow this latest trauma to stop him from trusting, or loving, anyone again—even Ellen?

John Charles “Jack” Witherington = Luke Macfarlane
Ellen Delaney = Hannah James

Working Title: Her Rebellious Heart
In the summer of 1848, London’s working class are nearing a boiling point, which could lead to the same kind of violence seen in the Newport Uprising ten years before. Celebrated for his accomplishments in infiltrating and bringing down several smuggling/crime rings in London and Portsmouth, Metropolitan Policeman Edmund Cochrane is assigned to find and infiltrate the resurgence of Chartists in order to waylay another violent riot. After literally sweeping her off her feet—to save her from a runaway carriage—Edmund is invited to a meeting for the “working men of London” by Abigail Bradford—niece of the leader of the London Chartists. It isn’t long before Edmund has completely fallen for the feisty Abigail. If he acts on these feelings, he’ll put the investigation at risk. But he can’t keep lying to Abigail about his true motivations and the reason for his presence in her life. When Edmund’s identity is revealed, he’s set upon and brutally beaten. With his life in the balance, can Abby forgive his deception, put aside her rebelliousness, and let love reform her heart?

Edmund James Cochrane = Liam Hemsworth
Abigail Bradford = Jennifer Lawrence

Working Title: To Capture His Heart
By chance—because they saw a Wanted poster with a reward listed and they desperately needed the money—Valeria Amador and her two brothers became some of the best Vigilantes in California. With one last capture, the three will have enough to purchase land and build homes for themselves. So when they see a wanted posted looking for Dr. Frederick Ransome, they set a trap for the snake-oil salesman whose counterfeit medicines have left a trail of fatalities behind him. When Val meets a man calling himself Dr. Frederick Ransome, she admits he doesn’t look like the drawing on the poster. But she and her brothers are so close to their goal, she agrees to take him in and let the judge figure it out. Soon, though, she finds herself believing him and trying to convince her brothers of his innocence. She finally convinces them to detour to a town that leveled a complaint about him to see if they can identify him as the con artist. Will Freddie and Val be able to find the culprit before a rival group of vigilantes, known for delivering their prey dead more often than alive, finds Freddie and takes the law into their own hands?

Frederick Ransome = Ben Aldridge
Valeria Amador = Gal Gadot


Feel free to vote for your favorite in the comments!

Tomorrow, I’ll share my schedule for the thirty days of story planning.

Some Thoughts on What Liberty Means to Me | #IndependenceDay #July4

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.

Methodist credo attributed to John Wesley

What Liberty Means to Me
I can’t choose what other people do;
. . . . I can only choose what I do.

I can’t choose what other people say;
. . . . I can only choose what I say.

I can’t choose how other people act;
. . . . I can only choose how I act.

I can’t choose how others treat me;
. . . . I can only choose how I treat others.

I can’t choose what others believe or how they worship;
. . . . I can only choose what I believe and how I will worship.

I can’t choose how politics influences society;
. . . . I can only choose how I might have an influence on society.

I can’t choose whether other people are angry;
. . . . I can only choose not to exacerbate that anger by becoming angry myself.

I can’t choose who wins elections;
. . . . I can only choose to educate myself on candidates and VOTE.

I can’t choose others’ morals and ethics;
. . . . I can only choose how moral and ethical I am.

I can’t choose what others do with their bodies, their lives, their careers, their homes, their families;
. . . . I can only choose what to do with mine.

I can’t choose whom others love;
. . . . I can only choose to love others.

Anger Is a Gift . . . But We Don’t Have to Accept It

It is said that one day the Buddha was walking through a village. A very angry and rude young man came up and began insulting him. “You have no right teaching others,” he shouted. “You are as stupid as everyone else. You are nothing but a fake!”

The Buddha was not upset by these insults. Instead he asked the young man, “Tell me, if you buy a gift for someone, and that person does not take it, to whom does the gift belong?”

The young man was surprised to be asked such a strange question and answered, “It would belong to me, because I bought the gift.”

The Buddha smiled and said, “That is correct. And it is exactly the same with your anger. If you become angry with me and I do not get insulted, then the anger falls back on you. You are then the only one who becomes unhappy, not me. All you have done is hurt yourself.”


Why did I quote something from a website that has “fake” right there in the name? Because it goes so well with what comes before it. And because it goes so well with this quote:

Let love be without hypocrisy. Avoid what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Romans 12:9-21

True liberty can be found only when we stop trying to control and make choices for others and we concentrate on making ourselves the best, most loving people we can possibly be.

It’s Reading Report Time! (May and June 2017) | #amreading

Monday, July 3, 2017

Happy First Monday of July, everyone
Also, happy (belated) Canada Day and (early) Independence Day!

Since I was moving the first Monday in June, we’ll be covering what we read in both May and June today. Can’t wait to see what you’ve read and enjoyed over the past two months!

It’s Reading Report Time!

Open Book by Dave Dugdale

Open Book by Dave Dugdale

Tell us what you’ve finished since the beginning of last month, what you’re currently reading, and what’s on your To Be Read stack/list. And if you’ve reviewed the books you’ve read somewhere, please include links!

To format your text, click here for an HTML cheat-sheet. If you want to embed your links in your text (like my “click here” links) instead of just pasting the link into your comment, click here.

  • What book(s) did you finish reading (or listening to) in May and June?
  • What are you currently reading and/or listening to?
  • What’s the next book on your To Be Read stack/list?

Writing-Series Review—Bad Guys: The Villains and Antagonists We Love to Hate | #amwriting

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Bad Guys: The Villains and Antagonists We Love to Hate | KayeDacus.comOriginally published August 2009

With help from The Power of the Dark Side (Pamela Jaye Smith) and Bullies, Bastards & Bitches (Jessica Page Morrell), we’ll analyze the bad-guy characters in our writing and reading. And for those of you who aren’t writers, we’ll be looking at the antagonists in books and movies for examples.

Bad Guys: The Villains and Antagonists We Love to Hate

    the heart of telling a good story is conflict. And while that conflict doesn’t have to come from an antagonistic character (a bad guy/girl, villain, whatever you want to call it), some of the most iconic characters across storytelling venues have been bad guys: Darth Vader, Professor Moriarty, Voldemort, Sauron & Saruman, the Wicked Witch of the West, Nurse Ratched, all of the evil queens and stepmothers from fairytales, Captain Bligh, and so on.

Bad Guys: Breaking (Down) Bad

    We must first start off with defining what the protagonist/main characters believe is bad—bad behavior, bad beliefs, bad ethics, bad spirituality, bad culture, bad politics, etc. Through this process, we can start to see that a “bad guy” in a story might not necessarily be “bad” (or evil) in and of himself.

Bad Guys: Everything I Need to Know about Bad Guys, I Learned in Childhood

    When we create bad guys, we want to play upon our readers’ fears—we want to tap into that primeval part of the brain and make our readers squirm, make them connect with the characters emotionally because they’re actually experiencing some of the same feelings/sensations the character should be feeling.

Bad Guys: The Allure of the Dark Side

    What is it about the “dark side” that can be so alluring? Actually, what is it about human nature that makes the dark side so alluring?

Bad Guys: Antagonist or Villain?

    Then there’s the role of the antagonist-who-isn’t-the-villain. As I’ve already discussed at length, an antagonist needs to be someone (or something) whose presence is necessary to try to thwart the protagonist from attaining his goal for the story.

Bad Guys: Does a Villain Have to Be Evil?

    Villains are always antagonists, but antagonists aren’t always villains; and the difference is motivation/intent. An antagonist can be in opposition to the hero without meaning to; the villain sets out to be in opposition to the hero. A villain willfully chooses to try to stop the protagonist from achieving his/her goals.

Bad Guys: What Is Evil?

    In many fantasy books/movies, the most evil characters, the worst villains, are usually a non-human entity at which we can take one look and know that they are evil. The Shadow in Inkheart. The Balrog and Sauron in The Lord of the Rings. . . . But what about in those stories in which the characterization is more subtle, in which the lines between good and evil aren’t so clearly drawn? How, then, do we figure out if a character is an antagonist, a bad guy, a villain, or truly evil?

Bad Guys: Is He or Isn’t He? (Dark Heroes)

    A con man stranded on a strange island. A cold-blooded assassin with a memory problem. A vampire in a small Louisiana town. A billionaire playboy wanting vengeance for his parents’ murder. What do these characters all have in common?

Bad Guys—Creepy Cartoon Caricatures (Caricature or Creepily Sympathetic?)

    There’s creating “Bad to the Bone” villains—the creepy cartoon caricatures; and then there’s creating Bad Guys (antagonists, dark heroes, villains) who have just a little something about them that makes them sympathetic to the reader.

Bad Girls: The Scorned Woman

    We’ve talked about our favorite Disney villains, which includes a large number of females. But when it comes to creating believable female villains—Bad Girls, in other words—it takes a totally different skill set than it does to create a male bad guy.

Bad Girls: From Vixens to Villains

    What is it that makes us sympathize with Bad Guys and hate Bad Girls? Is it because men secretly want to be that kind of guy and women want to save him?


Other posts about Bad Guys/Villains:

Writing-Series Review: Becoming a Writer | #amwriting

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Published January/February 2009

Becoming a WriterHow do you become a writer? Where do story ideas come from? How do you cultivate creativity, imagination, and inspiration? These and other questions are explored for those who are thinking about starting a journey in fiction writing—or who just need a reminder of why you started writing in the first place.

Becoming a Writer: Why I Write

    How does someone “become” a writer? That’s a question I get a lot when people find out I’m published. I’ve heard of people who’ve sat down with the companion workbook of Donald Maass’s Writing the Breakout Novel, following all of the steps in it and “writing” a novel. Some have even gotten published that way. I also know a lot of people who didn’t start writing until they were adults, and many of them have had great success as well. But if you talk to these folks and really dig deep, you’re most likely going to find that two things are true . . .
    more . . .

Becoming a Writer: My Road to Publication

    Light broke through the darkness of secrecy in my soul. I wasn’t the only weirdo in the world! Other people did this, too, and talked about it! Not only talked about it but were proud of what they were doing.
    more . . .

Becoming a Writer: So You Want to Be a Writer?

    In my mind, what separates true “writers” from those who “want to write” is the compulsion to actually put words on the page. This goes for every type of writing there is: fiction, nonfiction, poetry, drama, essay, memoir, etc. If you truly are going to be a writer, there must be somewhere within you the drive, the desire, to put pen to paper, fingers to keyboard, and actually write.
    more . . .

Becoming a Writer: Where Do Stories Come From?

    Answering the question, “Where do story ideas come from?” is very much like answering the baby question. There’s the stork-like answer we give to non-writing friends and then there’s the full disclosure we discuss among fellow writers.
    more . . .

Becoming a Writer: Imagine That!

    I cannot define where imagination comes from any better than C. S. Lewis did. But I do know that the more I pay attention to those “pictures” that come into my head, the more I allow myself time to think about them and let them ferment and develop, the more frequently and clearly they come.
    more . . .

Becoming a Writer: Creativity & Inspiration

    Well, the biggest difference is that imagination is passive while creativity is active. Just look at the root of the words: image and create. One’s a noun, one’s a verb. With our imaginations, we form images in our minds; with our creativity, we do something with those images, whether it’s painting, acting, composing music, or writing poems or stories.
    more . . .

Becoming a Writer: How Do I Get Started?

    There’s a huge difference between “getting an idea” for a story and actually beginning to write that story. So there are two issues we need to examine: how to choose the story idea and how to get started writing it.
    more . . .

Becoming a Writer: Advice from Best-Selling Authors

    Writing tips from Meg Cabot, Catherine Cookson, Garrison Keillor, Roald Dahl, Stephen King, James Herriot, Kurt Vonnegut, Barbara Taylor Bradford, Jeffrey Archer, and Tom Clancy.
    more . . .

Becoming a Writer: The Best Advice I Ever Received

    Back at the beginning of this series, I mentioned attending the 2001 Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers’ Conference at Ridgecrest, NC. Up until that time, I’d been writing and writing and writing for years. I’d even majored in creative writing (and hated it) many years before that. At the conference, I took the Fiction 101 track, taught by author T. Davis Bunn. It was pretty early on in the first day’s workshop that I heard the piece of advice that had the most profound influence on my writing career of anything I’ve learned since . . .
    more . . .

Becoming a Writer: How Do I Know When I’m Finished?

    I met a fellow writer for coffee and dessert the other night, and we talked about our experiences with finishing manuscripts. And I realized: there is a certain euphoria, a certain feeling of accomplishment, of fulfillment, that comes from finishing a manuscript.

    But once you’ve written “The End,” does that mean you’re “finished” with that manuscript?
    more . . .

Fun Friday: Five Random Songs

Friday, June 16, 2017

Whether I’m working or playing, it’s rare that I don’t have some kind of music going. Because of that, I have a rather eclectic mix of music on all of my devices, whether my personalized streaming stations on Pandora, my Prime Music playlists on Amazon, or the USB drive I have in my car with a couple of hundred pieces of music on it to listen to.

Now that I’m in my new house (mostly—still going back to Nashville a couple of days each week until the end of the month to finish cleaning out the house I rented for 12.5 years) and I’m working on unpacking and arranging, I’ve been listening to a lot more music recently. (Especially since it’s an hour-long drive from my new house in Clarksville to the old house in Nashville, and I usually have too much on my mind to try listening to an audiobook . . . but that’s another post!).

One of my favorite playlists that I’ve built for myself is the one that I labeled “Manic Mix”—it’s a mish-mash of all of the different types of music I listen to, from classical to soundtracks to classic rock to Disney to showtunes. It’s what I have saved on that USB I listen to in the car all the time. So I thought it would be fun to pull up that playlist and share the first five songs that come up.

Manic Mix: Five Random Songs
Random Song #1: “Cello Wars” by The Piano Guys

Random Song #2: “Footloose” by Kenny Loggins

Random Song #3: “The Raiders March” by John Williams

Random Song #4: “That Thing You Do” by The Wonders

Random Song #5: “My Shot” by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Anthony Ramos, Daveed Diggs, Okieriete Onaodowan, Leslie Odom, Jr., and the cast of Hamilton<

YouTube Bonus: “Broadway Carpool Karaoke” by James Corden et al.
(Because it is the next video that comes up after the one above and I just can’t resist—because this is totally me in the car!)

What are YOU listening to?

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