Tips and Tricks, writing

Guest Post: An Edit Vs a Re-Write: My First Draft Problem

By: Jeremy C Kester

In the spaces where I’ve done my research, I’ve found quite a number of other writers who would argue that in every story I do, once I complete my first draft I should crumple it up, throw it out, and start fresh. The idea is predicated on advice to ignore quality (or rather, not to let it get in the way of progress) when attempting to complete the first draft.

I can’t say that I am a fan of that method. It would be a waste to just re-do it all, similar to throwing all that work away.

Though I won’t dare say that the first draft of any of my stories is a work of pristine art, I was more in favor of strategic editing, lopping off chunks or adding where needed to bolster the weak parts of the story. I would argue that there are great stretches in what I write that is worth keeping. Basically, I believe that the above advice to completely re-write the book from scratch \ was more for when one’s first draft was really bad. Like really bad— like where a surgery is more likely to kill the patient than the disease itself.

Still, I never considered it. Even when my first drafts were terrible, I stuck with the strategic editing concept… that is until I have a book with over 170,000 words staring at me with a plot that indeed went awry somewhere in there. It would take so much work that I realized something: they were right the whole time.

There’re a few projects of mine, particularly in the last year, that I plowed through the writing to get the draft done. When I was struggling with plot, I simply ran through. Eventually, when I finished these stories, I found that they were a teeny-bit away from the intentions I had put forward initially. My inadequate planning bit me in the ass. There was too much wrong to fix with simple editing. Yet, I became determined to try.

Gravity 3 was like that. As is Gravity 4, Gravity 5 (note that I am revamping that saga anyway, but this only reinforces that), Of Earth and Ice (a sci-fi epic I am working on), Antlers (a novella that I am not fully ready to say much about yet), and a few others. I learned to write a lot, and write a lot I did; although, I ended up failing at achieving the real goals I wanted to get to with those stories.

Without my planning, without the skills I’ve been working on to better the prep work before I start a project, I would have to become comfortable with the understanding that a crappy first draft would act as a substitute. It would install a rough skeletal structure to hang a re-draft onto, allowing me to take on re-writing I said project with more confidence. The first draft is the rough outline I needed to begin with.

I am throwing a lot of these projects away now (metaphorically speaking). Committing to a re-write just seems… right. Sure, it would be a lot of extra work, but wouldn’t the degree of editing I would have to do to bring a bad manuscript back in line be even more?


Today’s guest author is the talented Jeremy C Kester. To read more of his works and support a great writer, check out his site

Jeremy C Kester is an independent writer living with his family in DuPage County, Illinois. He works as an engineer with a polyurethane chemical company while he obsesses about writing. Petting cats is another hobby he would love to have more time for if he wasn’t writing, spending time with family, reading, and drinking coffee.

Sunday Story Segment, writing

Asena Ch. 9: A Coffee Shop Deal

Join Asena and Marlene as they dive deeper into their case with a familiar face making an appearance. If you think you know what might happen next or want to make a suggestion, comment below and you may just see your suggestion show up in the next installment! As always, thanks for reading and feel free to check out the rest of Asena’s story.


“Is that him?” Marlene asked, pointing at the snow-covered man who had just walked in.

“If you ask that one more time, I’m sending you to the car,” I grumbled. Emmett was unsurprisingly late and I hadn’t slept much last night. Danny had called and I couldn’t bring myself to tell him we were still investigating. The guilt had kept me tossing and turning all night. I had texted him this morning to see if we could grab dinner tonight but he had been busy. I frowned, hating the idea that he might find out through someone else.

“Wasn’t he supposed to be here at one?” Marlene sighed. We had sequestered ourselves in the corner of a coffee shop. It was quiet, there were no cameras, and we were far enough from campus that no students were camped out in nearby tables.

“Yup,” I snapped.

“Hey,” she whipped her head over at me. Her hat was still on, red hair sticking up with static. “If you don’t want to do this, then don’t. I’m sick and tired of you acting like I’m a whiny child. I’ve helped you a ton already and I feel like you’re not appreciating me at all.”

My eyes widened. Her outburst had been quiet enough that no one was looking at us, but thoroughly shocking to me. I knew I was on edge, but Marlene always seemed happy and bubbly and I never thought twice that she might be upset with me.

I wasn’t sure if I should apologize or defend myself and before I could decide, Emmett walked up.

“Asena,” he said, unraveling a knit brown scarf from around his face. “Who’s this?” He looked Marlene up and down, mostly checking to make sure she wasn’t armed, but the small smile told me he thought she was cute too.

“An associate of mine. Nothing to worry about,” I promised as he sat down at the rickety table across from us.

“An associate? With a wire?” He frowned at her and her scowl didn’t help soothe his nerves.

“Really?” I asked, annoyed that he would even think that. “She’s not a cop.”.

“I’m actually her partner on this case,” she said, glancing at me with a raised eyebrow as if daring me to challenge.

“She has some insight to the case and has been helping me follow some leads,” I answered and I felt her relax beside me.

“Is this still the Pembrook case?” he asked and shrugged his coat off. He was wearing a nice blue sweater and his hair was mussed from the wind.

“Kinda,” I said and I felt Marlene inhale.

“I thought the jewels had been found?” he asked. “Also, I think I was promised coffee.”

“What can I get you?” Marlene asked sweetly. I was surprised at the gesture but controlled my expression. Emmett didn’t need to know we were arguing.

He smiled at her and ordered a caramel latte. She took her hat off and set it next to her cup. “Be back in a jiff,” she said and walked over to the counter, leaning heavily against it and chatting up the barista.

“What’s going on, Asena?” Emmett whispered, leaning in close. “No games.” His brow was scrunched and I could see the worry oozing out of him.

“That’s Marlene Pembrook,” I said, deciding honesty was probably the best bet. “We’re following up on her case. The jewels were recovered but it’s looking like Francis was a patsy. She’s hired me to figure out who murdered him and the condition is that she joins in.”

“Isn’t that dangerous?

“Of course it is,” I answered, rolling my eyes. “But she’s pretty smart, she’s the one who caught our lead. And she threatened to go snooping around on her own if I didn’t help her.”

He grinned at me, the tension leaving his face. “And you couldn’t let someone get hurt when you know you can help them.”

“Hey, if I wouldn’t let you get hurt, do you really think I’m going to let a rich, young client?” I responded, taking a sip of my coffee.

I nodded slightly to let Emmet know Marlene was walking back up, a coffee mug in her hand. It was smart, not getting him a to-go mug because it gave us a better chance of keeping him here longer and getting more information. I smiled at her, not sure if she had done it on purpose, but after the past twenty-four hours, I wouldn’t put it past her. She smiled back and her happiness was easy to spot. Another wave of guilt hit me. I couldn’t believe how much my actions seemed to influence her emotions.

“Here’s your cup of sugar and coffee,” she said, setting it in front of him.

He laughed as she sat back down and took a sip of her own plain latte.

“What did I miss?” she asked, glancing between us.

“I was just filling Emmet in on the case a bit. I explained that you had found our lead,” I answered her and she beamed at the praise. I turned back to Emmett, trying not to roll my eyes. “We think Francis’ overdose was caused on purpose. Until we can somehow get the toxicology report, we aren’t sure if he really did intake too many narcotics or if someone gave him something that was too pure. Either way, we figured you might be able to help.”

“Asena, you know I don’t deal the hard stuff,” he answered, leaning back as he sipped slowly, blowing on the steaming milk.

“I know,” I retorted. “But I also know that you know most of the guys who do deal the harder stuff. Could you poke around a bit, find out if anyone was looking for some purer coke or recently bought a large quantity?”

“Asena, asking those kinds of questions could get me killed,” he answered, no longer smiling as he set his cup down.

“C’mon, you can sweet talk anyone. Are you really telling me you can’t casually drop that into conversation with a someone whose life revolves around it?”

“No, I can’t,” he answered, glancing around the cafe. “They know I don’t sell that stuff. Worst case scenario, they’ll think I’m a snitch for the cops and I’ll be found in some back alley. Best case scenario, I have a bunch of dealers curious as to why I’m asking questions. Sooner or later, they’ll start talking and realize I’ve been asking around. No matter what they think my reasoning might be, I’ll still be a dead man.”

“What if you were acquiring it for someone else?” Marlene broke in.

“I mean, maybe. Most know I’m not interested in getting into that so it’d be a hard sell. And I would need to have a real client. If my story didn’t come with a lot of cash to back it up, it would never fly.”

“Then this is me, wild heiress to a billionaire, asking if you can find me someone who is selling a pure form of cocaine,” she said in a whisper, her eyebrow raised and a smile playing around the corner of her mouth.

I bit my lip, unsure whether or not to oppose. This suddenly stuck both Marlene and Emmett in a possible line of fire. No longer was this an innocent question or two, this was a drug deal. If they didn’t get hurt from the dealer, there was altogether too much of a chance the police would find out. And there would go her PI days and mine.

“I’d need a lot of cash,” he repeated, frowning. He definitely hadn’t expected the offer. He already was halfway out the door in his head and the furrowed brow told me that he had no idea what to think,

“I have the cash, trust me,” she answered, leaning her chin on her hand. “I’ll give you ten percent of whatever it’s worth as a finder’s fee as well.”

“Twenty,” he replied leaning forward.

“Fifteen,” she answered firmly. I had a feeling she had haggled before.

“Deal,” he said and grinned. I wasn’t sure the street value but I had a feeling Marlene was handing over a lot of cash.

“Guys,” I started, not sure where my sentence would end.

“Asena, this is a good plan. And one of the only ways to keep Emmett safe. And I don’t mind giving up the money. Trust me, my family won’t notice the difference.”

I sighed deeply.

“Emmett, this is the only time I will be okay with you dealing anything hard.”

“Deal,” he replied. “I couldn’t get a deal like this again anyways, with a PI watching my back and that much cash to go with it.”

Marlene sat back, a small smile on her face. She was proud of herself and for a moment, I let myself be impressed by her plan. This girl might be valuable after all.


Guest Writers Wanted

Are you a phenomenal writer with something interesting to say about writing? Do you have a short story or excerpt you would love to have published? Are you interested in writing posts to expand your audience?

If any of these apply, I would love to work with you. Reach out on my contacts page to talk more about collaboration!

Sunday Story Segment, writing

Asena Ch. 8: Harold’s Daughter

“She’s gonna be great.” He took a long drag on his cigarette and looked over at Harold. The wind had tousled his black hair and the smoke from his cigarette was snatched away almost immediately.

Harold smiled, flicking an ash off the end of his cigarette into an ornate ashtray. He stared at  his little girl as her nimble fingers picked an assortment of locks he had set in front of her. Some had gotten dirt in them as she tossed them around before setting to work with the small case of tools he had given her a few weeks before. She enjoyed the extra challenge.

“She’s gonna be the best,” he replied. He leaned back in his chair and stuck his feet up on the patio table. Moira would chew him out if she saw this, but she was out for the afternoon, running errands.

“When do you think she’ll be ready to go on jobs? Completely safe, I promise,” he said, crossing his heart with his finger.

“Asena is never going on jobs. I’m not teaching her to take my spot, I’m just making sure she can take care of herself. It’s the only thing I can teach her after all my experience.”

“We could use some of that experience tonight,” the man suggested, flicking his own cigarette ash off into a flower pot.

“Hey, watch it,” Harold snapped. “Moira loves those.” The whole back porch was covered in flower pots. Some had herbs while others had tomato plants and a few sprouted bright, beautiful flowers.

“Sorry,” he said with an annoyed sigh. “C’mon, Jonny isn’t nearly as quick as you are. Last time, he nearly tripped the alarm before he got that thing open.”

“That’s because Jonny is a moron,” Harold answered. “You know I’m out, man. Advice, that’s all I’m gonna do. I’m not going to get them in trouble. Not again.”

“Moira would get over it,” he said but it was obvious he had no fight left in him. This was an old conversation. “She can’t stay mad forever.”

“You’ve met Moira. Yes, she could.” That made both of them chuckle and the sound made Asena look up.

“Daddy, look!” She grabbed a handful of the locks, all popped open, and thrust them up in the air, grinning.

“Great job, sweetheart. Now, put them in the gardening shed before mommy gets home,” he said, blowing a kiss to his daughter.

“Okay,” she said, bounding off towards the white and blue shed in the back corner of their yard.

“Hey, honey,” Moira’s voice floated in from the open patio door and the front door closed behind her. Harold let out a sigh of relief on Asena’s timing and slipped his feet off the table before his wife noticed.

Asena ran up to the deck, empty-handed, as Moira stepped outside. She was a gorgeous woman, strong and proud with golden hair and startling blue eyes. She scooped her daughter up easily and smiled at her husband.

“What have you guys been up to? What were you doing in the shed?” she asked Asena, tickling her chin.

The cigarettes both disappeared as well and Harold tried to think of something his wife would believe.

“I wanted to dig in the yard,” Asena said, “but daddy said I had to put your gardening tools back.” The lie was smooth and Moira accepted it without hesitation, playfully chiding her daughter for trying to dig up the yard.

Harold stared at them both, a twinge of guilt settling in his stomach like soured milk. He knew that as a con man, he should be very proud of his protege. But as a father and husband, he felt terrible that his daughter was willing and completely able to treat her mom like that. He knew that was definitely his fault.

Moira looked up and caught the slight frown. She was one of the few people that seemed to read him well and she raised an eyebrow.

He smiled, trying to reassure her. Her returning smile was enough to strengthen his resolve. When the girls had walked back inside to wash Asena’s hands, he looked over.

“You guys be safe, but there’s no way I’m going back out there.”

“Just you wait. There’s going to be a day you call me up, asking to get back in. And if you bring the girl, I might just let you.” Harold shook his head and hoped fervently that that would never happen.


The Good Friday Story

Jesus Christ’s narrative is one of the greatest stories ever told. As a writer, I can truly appreciate the way God created such a mesmerizing and breathtaking story, that I believe to be undeniably true. This story spans thousands of years, fits together perfectly, and tells a tale that each of us can relate to on a deep level. As a human, I’m thankful to be a part of that story and be set free through Christ and what He did on that cross.

Thank you to all my readers for being a part of my site and interacting with my thoughts and stories. While this blog is not religious-themed, I wanted to take a moment to create a space for those with questions about Good Friday or any part of the Christian gospel story to reach out. Please comment here or reach out to me on my contacts page.

backlit cemetery christianity clouds
Photo by Pixabay on
Original Work, writing

Elemental Short Story-Water

The water was warmer than he expected. His diving suit seemed to keep away the chill that should be spreading through each limb in this deep of water. As a researcher, he knew that the darkness was natural, the glimpses of fish floating around him caught in his flashlight shouldn’t spook him. But something about being this far down with his crew so far above, floating on the surface sent shivers down his spine.

After years of research, his crew was nearly positive they were in the correct location of the Patriarch’s final resting place. The ship had disappeared in the 1700’s and only a handful of crew members had survived. They told harrowing stories of sea monsters and treasure, but after nearly twenty days lost at sea, nearly dying on a rowboat until a fisherman spotted them, no one believed the stories.

But the further down he went, the more he started to believe.

Static blasted in his ear for a moment, breaking the eerie quiet of the ocean.

“Parker, do you think this is it?”

They were a small crew, just Parker and his two friends from college. He was a marine biologist, Maria was an archeologist, and Ben was a historian. They had hatched this idea to join forces his junior year and discover underwater treasure but he had never expected to get a call from Maria stating that she and Ben had actually gotten a location. He had given her bits of information over the years. How the currents tended to run in this area, what fish and larger predators would be swimming around.

“I don’t know, Ben,” he responded. He spun around, trying to get a three sixty. His flashlight cast a wide net of light, but the water was filled with particles and each one shone brightly. Gleaming fish moved around, each more beautiful than the last. His speciality hadn’t been deep ocean diving, but he was the only one of the three with any experience diving so here he was.

He wished he could just stay still for a few moments, basking in the feeling of being in the water. Despite the heavy load he was carrying, he floated and glided, his flippers guiding him however he wanted. There were jagged rocks poking up and he slowly followed them down. They were beautiful and he watched the fish swirl around the points and crannies. He loved the water and the things that lived in it.

“I’m going deeper,” he said and started descending slowly.

The rocks became more numerous and he wound his way slowly through them, trying to stay in open water as much as possible. He didn’t want something to surprise him or for him to startle something. While most underwater animals in this area were harmless, surprising something, especially something large, could provoke aggression. And the dark swirling water seemed to hint at something dangerous.

“Parker?” Maria sounded concerned. He wasn’t sure how long it had been since he last spoke, but he guessed it must have been a bit.

“I’m still here. No sign of a wreckage yet.” He swung the flashlight down, illuminating a fair distance. He could see fish fleeing the light and more rocks, but he couldn’t see the bottom yet. “It’s deeper than I thought here.” They weren’t that far off the coast.

“Be careful,” she responded.

Something crossed his flashlight for a moment and was gone before he could blink. He whipped his light around, trying to find it again, but he saw nothing but the same fish scuttling away.

It had been large and quick. His breath quickened.

“Did you guys see that?” he asked. There was a camera that was feeding back to the boat.

“We didn’t catch anything,” Ben responded. The static felt almost quiet compared to the blood pounding in his ear.

“There,” he said as it swam past again. This time he was able to get a better look. It was at least a hundred yards off and that comforted him, but it was definitely something large, greyish, and keeping to the edges of his light.

He was still pointed downward and he slowed, halting his descent. He wasn’t sure he wanted to keep going, towards something he wasn’t sure he could identify. He had always been rational, scoffing even at the idea of treasure because that seemed so unlikely. But all he could think of was the sailors’ stories, full of teeth and brutality.

“I…I think it was a fish,” Ben said, full of hesitation.

Maria let out a gasp while the line was still open before static cut out. There in front of him was a fish. He wasn’t sure what type because it was larger than any fish he’d ever seen. It had three black stripes on its body and was nearly the size of a great white shark but looked nothing like one. It was like the numerous other fish swimming around, only they were all the size of his forearm.

“It’s okay guys,” he said, taking a deep breath. The fish was gone again, but he was sure that it wasn’t aggressive. He had studied the smaller versions and they weren’t aggressive fish. “There’s strange things that can happen this far down, but I can keep going. I’m fine,” he said and he tried to believe the words. His hand still shook, causing the light to waver, making the water seem almost like it was rippling around him.

“Is that…?” Ben trailed off. Parker searched for what Ben might have seen. He was still calming himself and scanning for any other giant fish. There, between two rock crags below and to the right, was a piece of weather-worn wood poking up. If he was right, that looked like it may have been the top of a mast once, worn down by water over the years.

He swam closer and the giant fish appeared again. It seemed curious, this time only fifty yards away. It darted away from the rocks though as if it didn’t want to get close.

Parker frowned but kept moving forward.

“I can’t believe it,” Parker said and Maria started to rattle off facts about the wreckage so they’d be able to identify it. He still couldn’t see more than the mast sticking up, but the closer he got, the more his smile grew. He ignored the giant fish, swimming closer and closer, popping in and out of the flashlight beam. Unless it suddenly grew sharp teeth, he had nothing to worry about.

He swam around the final large chunk of rock and the ship presented itself. Much of it was worn away, but it was definitely a large ship from an era long gone. Fish swam around and through the hull, which had large holes in it. Some seemed natural, but there seemed to be a few that were almost perfectly circular as if something had punched through the hull. He wondered if maybe it had gone down by cannon fire rather than bad weather as was the general guess, though he’d never seen what a cannonball would do to wood.

Unable to contain himself, he spun around and thrust a fist up in victory, swinging his flashlight with the other.

He stopped as quickly as he could. He had seen something.

He slowly swung his flashlight in a grid, trying to figure out what he caught a glimpse of. It had seemed like his giant fish friend, but different. The rocks could easily have hidden something else.

“What is it?” Ben asked, noting his behavior.

“I think I saw something,” he answered, trying to keep his breathing even.

He landed on the giant fish and it started to dart away as usual. But this time, it stopped and swung back into the light. Fascinated, Parker swam closer. It was still an easy twenty-five yards away, but the distance didn’t feel like very much. A large outcrop was behind the fish and Parker watched as something slowly made its way out, keeping the fish in the middle.

His hand began to shake badly as he realized what he was looking at. Whether it was a giant squid or some other marine animal, the only thing his brain could think of was ‘sea monster’. It’s tentacles surrounded the poor giant fish.

Parker turned and started swimming as fast as he could, praying he’d be as lucky as the delirious sailors who had survived hundreds of years ago.


This story was in response to The Haunted Wordsmith’s Elemental post. I encourage you to check it out!