In the immortal words of Sir Terry Pratchett…


KAT VANCIL

THE STORYTELLER'S SAGA

QUEST 59

Well hello there, Reader,

This time of year always reminds me of sitting in a big grassy field watching baseball. And if the wind is blowing in the right direction, you can still hear that distant crack of ball hitting bat as people cheer from the driveway of my parents’ house.

It’s a sound I know well. You see, my little brother played baseball from T-ball right up 'til he started high school.

And since most of the games were at the school/city park down the street from our house, we went to all his games as a family. Mainly because my parents both played right up ’til graduation and my dad even played on the company softball team.

And…well…because my dad ended up coaching my brother’s teams half the time. Not because he was one of “those” dads.

You know the ones.

But because my parents couldn’t stand the overly aggressive Alpha Dads who wanted to relive their “glory days” through tween boys’ baseball.

But me…well…I was terrible at baseball. I’m serious. In high school PE, I even managed to get beaned in the head.

By my own team.

But I love my brother. And I wanted to be a supportive big sister. But…watching baseball is boring as hell when you’re 7 and you can’t even read yet.

And mind you, this was the early 90s, so it’s not like we had tablets to watch cartoons either. Hell, we didn’t even have Tamagotchi until I was 12.

So what did I do? I plopped myself down in the grassy field and told myself stories within my head.

Simple stories that never seemed to end. Or big sweeping adventures. It really didn’t seem to matter. I’d just put myself in a dissociative state —as my therapist put it—and convince myself that I was anywhere other than in that field watching baseball.

And it worked pretty damn well.

Soon, I began to tell myself stories during all sorts of times. While waiting for my mom to pick me up from theater practice.

While waiting in the lunch line at school (there were 3K kids. It took a while).

While stuck in traffic.

Basically during any number of boring times between then and now.

I even did it while falling asleep at night.

I got so used to telling myself stories within my head that it just became a basic function of my day. Like brushing my teeth or scrolling social media on my phone.

But it does remind me of my absolute fav Pratchett quote:

‘The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.’
— Sir Terry Pratchett

Which is a really delightful way to take something we storytellers often blow out of proportion and bring it right back to that little girl telling herself stories in a field covered in dandelion and clover.

Because as writers—especially beginning ones—we tend to stress a lot over the first drafts of our stories. But really, that first version of our story is just us telling ourselves that the story exists at all.

When you think about it like that, a first draft is really no different than an artist’s sketch for a painting. So really, there’s no real reason to be stressed at all.

So how do I create my first drafts?

1) The Brain Dump

I start by emptying my brain of all the ideas I have for a story project. Everything from snippets of dialogue to character names to plot points and even title ideas.

2) Folder Fun

Then I move those various bits into folder boxes in Scrivener. Is the idea a note? Like a name or title? Or is it a bit of plot? That sort of thing.

3) Simple Outline

Once everything is in its proper place I start making a simple outline based on what I have.

4) 3 Qs

I write by scene instead of by chapter like most storytellers. And so I’m not writing into a dark fog of 🤷🏻‍♀️ I like to fill in these 3 questions for each scene. (Remember the 3 questions we talked about back in March?)

  1. WHO is the POV Character?
  2. WHERE is the scene set?
  3. WHAT needs to happen in the scene?

1) WHO is the POV Character? Even if you’re writing in third person, you need a single point of view character. Otherwise, you’re going to end up confusing the reader with a “jumping heads” situation.

2) WHERE is the scene set? A scene can only take place in ONE location. Because the moment it switches to a new location, you’ve begun a new scene.

3) WHAT needs to happen in the scene? You really only ever need to accomplish ONE thing in a scene. You can accomplish more, of course. But if nothing is accomplished in a scene, you need to ask yourself—is there any real reason for this scene to exist in my story?

5) Fleshing out the Scene

With the story outline and the 3 questions set for a scene, I flesh it out with a starting goal of 500 words per scene.

And that’s how I write the first draft of my stories, Reader.

Are they perfect and ready to be published? Hells no. That’s what edits are for.

But remember when it comes to writing a first draft, the only one who needs to see your rough draft is YOU. And maybe your cat.

Your cohort in storytelling,

Kat Vancil

🐱

PS 👉 Tamagotchi was released in the US on May 1st 1997! And for some crazy reason the newspaper in my hometown came to my house and interviewed me and my little brother about them. Yep, massive pic of us standing in our driveway holding up little pocket monsters.

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Sue Brown-Moore

Professional storysmith & fiction book coach

The heart of your story is in the hero's growth as a person. Learn how to start plotting the RIGHT story from your very first draft by digging deep into WHAT is holding your protagonist back and WHY they choose to become their best self. Sue's techniques break down storytelling in simple, intuitive ways that traditional writing methods often muddy. Stop wasting time spinning your creative wheels and start writing stories readers will remember... WITHOUT having to rewrite the story a million times.


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I’m Kat! Professional Storyteller & Neurodivergent Creative

Here to help you vanquish those story construction obstacles, slay that imposter syndrome clawing at the back of your brain & stomp boredom flat with heart-pounding Boys Love fiction. Join the Saga and choose your inbox obsession, whether it’s helpful advice to get your writing unstuck or an episode of my weekly Boys Love Fantasy series to devour during your coffee break.

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