Helpful Writing Exercises

Over the years I’ve picked up different tips and tricks to help make drafting my novels a bit easier. When I first started writing novels, I would draw out what my character’s looked like, along with say their bedrooms or parts of their house but for some reason I stopped as I got older. Personally, I think it was because of how much time I had. As a thirteen-year-old I had more time to work on my stories and was completing a novel every one to three months…which I’m still astonished by because it took me seven years to complete my last one. Can you imagine doing NANOWRIMO every month?

Having a visual was fantastic. I of course still draw all my character’s, but I stopped drawing where they lived which at first, I didn’t think was such a huge deal but now I’m realizing not having those visuals can become extremely frustrating. Sometimes while drafting you might forget the colour of a particular character’s bedroom, and perhaps this colour is significant throughout the story. Let’s imagine that this bedroom will ultimately become this character’s tomb, so recalling the colour, the smells and the overall atmosphere of the room should be brought up multiple times throughout the text. If you however have no clear idea of that or even say you step away from writing for a week and jump back into the story, you might miss something. Like I mentioned earlier, you could forget that this character’s bedroom has an apricot colour and that it smells of a certain perfume, let’s say a deep floral. A few chapter’s later, if you aren’t careful this entire image could change. It’s as bad as when you’re watching a movie and the main character is dragging their right leg because they’re injured but then in the following scene they’re hobbling along with their left. Being consistent with these types of details is equally as important as remembering the colour and texture of your main character’s hair.

Something that I decided to do was do description exercises, where I would write up what each character’s home looked like, taking the time to describe the individual rooms and overall property. Not just the important ones, but all of them, as if I were taking a tour. I found that in doing this I was less likely to forget the characteristics of a room. Instead it allowed me to give stronger descriptions later on. Personally, I wish I had been doing this all along.

Another thing that I tried was creating my character’s homes on The Sims, which again works well but only if you can constantly go back to look at it. It did however help me realize some issues with how I chose to layout certain houses. For example, the top floor having what seemed like an endless number of bedrooms and the main not having enough space to compensate that. Little peculiarities like that. If you have access to the game (or something similar) I would recommend it, as you get a great visual. This may not help with everything, but it can definitely be a good starting point. You might want to build your character’s world within the game before trying to describe it.

One other thing that I want to recommend, since we’re on the topic of descriptions is to include character’s when doing these types of exercises. This is to avoid using the same words over and over to talk about a character’s hair. Let’s pretend they have thick curls. Are you going to say “Philip ran a hand through his thick curls” every time you want to reference his hair? Are the curls tidy or messy? What colour do they have? Does the colour change depending on the lighting? Something else that’s important to a character is how they choose to dress themselves. Does this character take great pride in how they look, or could they care less? This is not to say that you spend pages upon pages telling us about what Nadya wore to school that morning, but you should have some idea of how your character likes to dress and if the clothing is significant to a scene keep track of it. It’s important that Cinderella is wearing glass slippers, is it not? Dorothy’s she’s are also significant to her story. We aren’t to forget that these shoes have magical properties!

Perhaps you want to assign your character a particular style? This is something I did as a kid, especially when my younger sister was playing games like Style Savvy. It was incredibly helpful. I had some character’s who preferred to dress in comfortable layers and others that preferred goth and alternative fashions. It may not seem as significant as a character’s overall voice and personality, but what they wear can help contribute to that. Do we not cultivate clothing to add to our collection (well, some of us do) or decorate our personal spaces with things that reflect who we are?

I personally wouldn’t have soccer trophies in my bedroom if I didn’t play soccer growing up.

Something that you could do as a warm-up is to describe a room in your house (even a desk if you wanted to try something small scale). For instance, by mentioning the soccer trophies in my room, the reader might then infer that I have an interest in sports. If I add that the trophies are dusty, that would indicate that I haven’t played sports in some time or that I don’t take pride in it. If I go on to add that the trophies were all participation trophies that would give off another hint about what type of person I am.

By doing these exercises with your own characters and settings you’ll have an easier time catching inconsistencies down the line (or avoid them altogether).

Happy writing!

A Poem for Rose – Ardin Patterson

A Wide eyed,

Little snowbird is watching.

It’s head is twisting side to side.

Sweet songs it sings and quietly,

It lulls itself to sleep each night.

It watches the frost bitten

Flowers trace my windows.

It watches me brush my hair.

It watches me as I watch you,

With a peculiar sort of stare.

So I hide behind the curtains,

That we bought in robins egg blue

And when sunlight hits them

My room has shadows,

Just like you do.


Written November 30th, 2020 by Ardin Patterson.

Tomorrow is Rose’s birthday so I thought I’d write her a poem. It also started to snow, which made things very fitting. I think snow is pretty but I prefer all the colours of Fall. I do love all the decorations at this time of year though.

Happy Draftiversary

Today is the anniversary of the completion of my first draft. I can’t believe so much time has passed since I finished writing that novel. So much has happened since then!

Yesterday I finished recording an audiobook, which was incredibly fun. I learned so much from working on that project. The story and it’s character’s really mean a lot to me. It challenged me in so many ways as a voice actor, and inspired me as a fellow creative. I hope my character’s get people as excited as the ones in this book did!

As I mentioned in my last post I’m currently working on Book #2 in the series. I’ve missed writing so much. I thought it would be fitting to do a little writing on the anniversary of my first novel’s draft. The draft completion date for Book #1 is also in the same month as my character Roland’s birthday…so, happy birthday Roland!

Funny enough I also had cake today. My niece made it. It had baby Yoda/The Child on it. It was so cute! It was almost too cute to eat–it was also delicious. It was nice to have a mini social distance visit. She’s gotten so much taller since I last saw her in…what? August…September maybe? It’ll be nice when we get to have sleepovers and do tea parties again but having that short visit was nice too. Talking on the phone just isn’t the same. Hopefully things turn around during the winter and we’ll be able to spend time with our loved ones come spring.

Back to Book #2

After several rounds of edits, I was given the okay to take a break and go back to working on the sequel!

First, I have a recording to complete (which I’m very excited to share) and then I will be dedicating the month of December to rewriting book two.

I initially wanted to begin book two later on in the story but changed my mind during my last two rounds of edits for book one…and so the entire book I wrote during NANOWRIMO last year is going to be redone/revamped. I actually moved parts of it into book one instead and am spreading out the other pieces throughout the story. The rest will be scraped, which is a little sad but I don’t mind. Yes, I worked really hard on it but I know that I can make it even better.

I’m seriously looking forward to writing again next month. I might also dive back into some of my other writing projects while I’m at it. We’ll see!

Is over-editing a thing?


I often call myself an “over-editor” but I’ve started to wonder if over-editing is actually a thing. Way back I posted a video on my editing process. I broke it down into its simplest form because I know some folks would rather get a quick run down versus spend 40 minutes watching a video when they could be working on their manuscript. Still, that video which I believe is around 4 minutes doesn’t accurately show how much time I actually spend editing.

For me editing also takes part in the planning stages of the novel. At this point you’re researching and deciding what to include in your book. That to me is the same as when you decide to cut chapters or make word substitutions later on when your manuscript is complete.

Then there’s the “okay I’m finished writing” editing…which is reading through your first draft. I do three rounds of this edit. Sometimes more. I want to make sure I didn’t miss any “stupid errors” as I call them, which is basically spelling, grammar or major plot holes. These tend to be the mistakes I made while staying up till 3 am to write after working all day.

This editing also familiarizes me with the text because I am forced to read it over multiple times. I also try to take notes while editing, however I make more notes while working with another editor or a beta-reader. Notes from other peoples feedback is extremely beneficial and I tend to keep it to enhance not only my current work in progress, but all my future projects as well. It can be difficult to realize what areas you need to work on and to top it off you also learn where your strengths are!

But is over-editing a thing? After writing and revising this manuscript as many times as I have…personally I’ve lost count. I’d say to keep things simple I’ve gone over it about 8 times in total. 3 times on my own with the initial first draft. This being the 3rd now while editing with my editor…which makes 6 and within those 3 I read over it on my 3rd edit two extra times before sending it back to my editor yesterday. So yes. 8. Math.

I suppose over-editing could be a thing but to me I’m only doing what I feel is necessary. If it feels like something is off or needs to be corrected, I find a solution for it (or in some cases scrap it and start fresh). To me that is all apart of the editing process…I think however there are probably more efficient ways of editing ones book but each of us are different and will benefit from different forms of editing. I know some folks who don’t edit their own work at all. I simply prefer to edit mine before giving it to someone else to read because I want it to feel “reader friendly”/”ready.”

As a reader I absolutely hate being thrown off by a random spelling error in a book. This has happened more than I’d like to admit. It’s like having someone pinch you while you’re in the middle of a good dream! Little things like that get to me. It doesn’t make me stop reading, but it can pull me from the experience temporarily if I have to go back and reread the same sentence to figure out what’s going on simply because a single word was spelled incorrectly.

I’ve seen this in a lot of traditionally published books I’ve read lately…more so in comics. For me with the comics it is more frustrating simply because it literally lists every person who edited the book, and I’m like “there were 5 spelling mistakes.” One I can forgive but 5? And by a larger company…yikes. Especially since those books are expensive! I love them…and they’ve brought me so much joy over the years but I can’t get over how the last 3 books I’ve purchased from them have had around 3 to 5 spelling errors each. Which then while I’m editing (which I’m almost always editing…unless I’m writing) makes me extremely paranoid about spelling errors in my own manuscript.

So…maybe to answer my own question: There’s editing, not editing at all and editing for hours on end because you’ve suffered from editorial errors as a reader and don’t want to do that to anyone else.

Honestly if I find spelling mistakes in my manuscript I get a little cranky. I’d say I’m fairly calm when it comes to my projects but if I accidentally spell “peach” as “peech” I’m not very peachy.

Anyway, if you’re doing NANOWRIMO this year, how is it going?

This Weekend I’m Editing Dialogue

I’ve been attempting to edit for at least an hour every day. It isn’t always possible but I do believe that trying to create a habit is a good start for now. I used to write almost every day…not because I was forcing myself to but more so because I had a lot more time. Taking the time to edit properly means that I have more time to write later on. It motivates me…and encourages me.

Plus the chapter I just went over was hilarious. Sometimes I forget I write things like that. I should do that more often. I couldn’t stop laughing!

I feel like I made a lot of progress during my last few edits. Today’s goal is to actually go back to my earlier chapters and edit some dialogue. I have a habit of using certain things when my character’s speak but at times I do too much of it in one scene as my editor pointed out. So to make her job easier when she goes back to look through the dialogue, I’m going t try and eliminate some of this where I can. I want to leave a reasonable amount in there, mainly because it is something that I feel works well…but I definitely see her point. When something like that is used too often it ends up losing its effect.

Something that I’ve learned throughout this editing process, is to write down crutch words or words you tend to overuse in your manuscript, along with things that you to a lot stylistically. This will help you when you write future works, as well as while editing your current WIP.

I’ve found that since I’ve started keeping track of these things I have been more aware of them in my newer projects. Being conscious of it gives me an opportunity to make my writing stronger in the first draft, which is ideal because it means that I won’t have as much to correct later on when I edit!

For Every Like I’ll Answer: Questions 5 & 6

Sorry for being a bit quiet lately. I had some stuff going on.

Thankfully things seem to be getting better!

Now onto answering questions 5 and 6 from my post.

Over writer, under writer, or just right?

I do a mixture. Sometimes I write too much and cut out the unnecessary details and other times…mainly when I’m trying not to reveal too much to the reader I’ll under write. I’d love to say that I always get a scene “just right” but even when I’m mostly satisfied with what I’ve written, I still edit them just as I would with any other.

Which is your favourite part of the writing process: planning, drafting or revising?

I absolutely love, love, love the planning process. I probably spend most of my time planning (aside from writing and editing). It’s when I can let my imagination free and build upon the layers of my story!

I like deciding on the settings, the characters, the rules of the world…and then building upon that. Usually I’ll do a mixture of research and imagination at this stage. Sometimes I do even more research during the drafting and revisions!

I just have so much fun with this part.

Answering Questions 1-4: Writer’s Edition

I thought it would be fun to start off NANOWRIMO with this fun post I saw circulating on Twitter. So far the post has 4 likes, so I’ll be answering the first 4 questions. Each like equals one answer! I don’t think I’ve done one of these since back in the old days when my friends and I used to send chain mail to each other.

So, let’s get to it!

Question #1: What Genre do you write in?

Genre is one of my favourite things to explore as a writer. Over the years I’ve played around with sci-fi, fantasy, contemporary, adventure, children’s literature, horror…etc. Most of my work tends to blend genres. I write things that I would enjoy as a reader and if others enjoy them too then that’s fantastic.

What genres I like to read changes often. Currently I’m reading a modern Gothic lit’, a shojo romance series, poetry and contemporary lit which would probably fall under a general fiction category. I also like to write historical fiction…but with a twist.

Question #2: How many projects have you started?

I don’t even know how to answer this question. A lot. The follow up question scares me more. I’d say recently I’ve started around 10 projects. By starting I mean I’ve got the synopsis and characters laid out and a couple introductory chapters done. These are projects I’ve been working on between 2013 and 2020. My debut novel is included among this list.

Aside from that there are the many…many pre-2013 projects. One is a 7 book series that’s been put on hiatus if any of my friends ask. It needs a lot of work. The others dwindled off after about 3 to 5 chapters. I usually know if I’m connecting to a story by then. Doesn’t mean I’ll never return to the story or characters but at the time my skill level as a writer and my knowledge as…well a person…just wasn’t at the right point.

Question #3: How many projects have you completed?

Completed projects…ehhhhhhh. Haha. Okay so for my debut series I’ve completed 1 and a half of the first two books. Book 1 is being prepped for publication so the editing of the first draft of its sequel is currently on hold.

As for those other 10 projects they’re either 50% complete or still in the early planning stages. I basically schedule out which projects receive my attention. Last NANOWRIMO I finished the draft for book 2 for example. I began rewriting and arranging it at the start of 2020 but have now prioritized getting the first book ready for publication.

During my off periods…and by that I mean when I’m working on projects that haven’t been given a deadline…I spend time researching, writing and building my other works. It saves me time down the road and allows me to get to know my characters.

Question #4: Planner, Pantser or Plantser?

I am a…Plantser. It honestly depends on my mood. I could spend hours researching, organizing my notes, getting every last detail in…or other times I sit down and write out whatever comes to me. The majority of the time I might write out a single chapter without any planning whatsoever and then begin my planning stages. I try to give my characters names as I’m writing that introductory chapter. I find that once they have a name, they’re more alive.

It started snowing today…well technically it started hailing and then it snowed. I’m glad I got my winter clothes out early. I may need to invest in some more sweaters for work though.