Three Helps when Drafting

I mentioned in my last post that I have been working on a novel. I outlined it, so I’ve had a general idea of what’s to happen in each chapter. My beginning and end are strong, but this last month, I’ve been wading through the murky middle, where emotions and sequence of events have to be just right. There are moments I feel giddy about what’s coming together. And there are moments when I wonder if what I’ve written is total rubbish.

There are three things that have helped me with my writing this month:

First, Ann Cannon recently wrote about silencing the inner critic (because the inner critic impedes our creative writing). Ann said she finds it helpful to name her inner critic (something like, “Gladys”), and then to tell her to shut up! I know Ann was joking, but I have been doing it.  I’ve told Gladys to shut up—out loud—almost every day this month. Numerous times. It makes me laugh. It reminds me of Ann, and other talented writers, which then gives me hope: they sometimes feel this way about their work too, and they’re still good at what they do.

Second, I’ve been reading. I’m jealous of my time (there’s too little of it), so what I read has to be worth it. In the recent past, I’ve read mostly escapism/fantasy/adventure/romance books. But this month, I caught up on some contemporary novels. Truly, I have gasped at some of the authors’ excellent word choices. It makes me happy to read experiences and emotions I didn’t think could be articulated; I get a high when I read beautiful well-placed words. It makes me a better writer. And sometimes even a better person.

Third, I’ve been writing things besides my novel. Every month I try to write a memoir-based essay. My family [parents and siblings] moved to America from Wales when I was eleven years old. My children are Americans, and they will probably always live here. But I want them to know about their family’s past and heritage.

Specifically, this month I wrote about the time my brother fell down a waterfall. Remembering that day—really thinking about the details and carefully choosing words, recalling my family members’ different reactions—brought back so many feelings. [I cried at my read-throughs]. Ex: I felt “jittery and hollow” when I was sure he had died. And I “bawled shaking snotty sobs on my chair in the dark linoleum hallway” at the hospital when the doctor finally told us he’d be okay.

The words, the emotions and even the scenery [my novel is set in Wales too] are so vivid in my mind, so fresh from my memoir essay, I can absolutely use it to strengthen my novel.

The good news from this month: I’m seeing a first draft soon. I really think I’ll get there. [Shut up, Gladys!]


Emily Manwaring spent her childhood in Wales, her adolescence in Utah and the time since in England and New Hampshire respectively. She has a degree in English Literature from BYU and currently lives in Northern Utah with her husband and children.  She likes to sleep [mostly she just misses it], read, and write [this makes her sound very lazy].  She is currently working on a picture book series.