First Five Pages Checklist

The first five pages of your book are so important. As aspiring authors, we are well aware of their significance. And we place so much time and emphasis on getting them right. While we probably have a fair idea of what to do and not do in our first five pages, here is a quick recap of things to keep in mind when looking at the start of your novel.

Important questions to ask yourself:

Does the first line engage your reader?

Is your main character properly introduced?

Has the POV and narration style been made clear to the reader?

Does your reader get a good feel for the world – i.e. have you set the status quo?

Have you established your main character’s deepest desire?

Is there an inciting incident?

The most important thing to avoid at the beginning of your novel:

The information dump. 

Your reader is only starting to get to know your main character and within these pages, so you don’t want to overwhelm them with backstory or world building information so early on. Remember, you’ve got a minimum of 80,000 words to work with, you can take your time introducing the important background information. 

Author Interview with Clint Foster

Dragon Soul Press took the opportunity to interview Clint Foster who is featured in Dragons and Heroines, History, Reign of Queens, and Organic Ink: Vol 2.


1. How long have you been writing?

I remember writing stories in middle and high school that were true nonsense. Fifty pages on Microsoft Word, single spaced, no indentations. Amazing stuff, surely. But I published my first book in 2018 and another forty some stories since.

2. How do you handle writer’s block?

I don’t get ‘blocked’ nearly as much as I just casually avoid writing by doing other things (like this interview.) But when I feel really stuck about a particular story I will just open another tab, among the hundreds, and start writing something else. Or I’ll read something. Just try to change the way my brain is thinking. Then I come back to it with fresh ideas and hope for something intelligible.

3. What comes first, the plot or characters?

The idea of a plot, to me, has always started with a character or two. Who is this antagonist and what do they want? But the characters develop along the way, then I have to go back and fix them in the beginnings of these stories when they still don’t know who they are yet. So I think the character instigates the plot, but the plot changes and truly creates the character. Chicken, egg, etc.

4. What time of the day do you usually write?

It depends on the day. Sometimes I write for four hours the second I wake up, others I write into the middle of the night because I had an idea.

5. How do you do research for your books?

All hail our overlord, the Google machine.

6. When you’re writing an emotionally draining (or sexy, or sad, etc.) scene, how do you get in the mood?

Music is always the answer.

7. How do you handle literary criticism?

I used to be extremely uncomfortable with it because I was also shy about having my writing out there, but it’s out there now, and I have succeeded enough times to know that someone must like what I’m writing, so I’ll keep doing what I’m doing and hope to get better.

8. How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?

One book, one epic poem. Favorite is such a final word. I’m obviously partial to my first novel, Pawns of the Shadow, because it was something I worked on for years, on and off, and was so proud to finally finish. But I always saw myself as something of a bard, and the idea of ‘singing’ a song by writing an epic poem was something I always assumed would be impossible. Final word – The Lay of Thorriman is my favorite of the two, but only of my two novel pieces.

9. What do you like to do when you are not writing?

I hang out with my wife watching true crime and bad tv shows. I relax with my puppies when I’m not watching them play in the backyard. I rot my brain with YouTube. I play (too many) video games. I read (never too many) books.

10. Where can readers learn more about you?

Visit me on Amazon and Facebook.

Tips to Stay Motivated

Coming into November there are probably a fair few of us who are giving NaNoWriMo a shot. Whether it’s your first time participating or you’re a seasoned vet, there will always be the problem of motivation that arises at some point throughout the month. It’s a natural part of the writing process to reach a certain point where the words don’t flow as easily and you’re finding yourself grasping at straws. When this happens during NaNoWriMo, it’s easy to throw in the towel and give up. But if you want to try to push through and stay motivated here are some tips to pushing yourself to write when you’re not feeling it – they can even be used outside of the sacred writing month of November as well!

Tip 1: Establish a Routine

Getting into a habit and sticking to it is the best way to combat any feelings of burnout. Whether it’s your home office, an outdoor café, your living room sofa, pick a place you’re most comfortable in and make it a habit. You can allot yourself as little as 20 minutes a day, but make sure you squeeze it in. You’ll find that the simple act of making a routine helps you write something, even if it’s not your best work. The key is just getting it out on paper. The editing comes later. Personally, I’ve also found that trying to fit in your writing in the morning works best because as the day wears on you will end up finding more excuses and distractions to draw you away from your writing. I know that’s not what the night owls want to hear but try giving morning writing a chance. It might surprise you.

Tip 2: Get Rid of Distractions

When I write during the week, I usually have a timer that I set for 20-40 minutes – depending on how early I managed to wake up. However, I always place it on the opposite side of the room, face down and notifications off, so I don’t get distracted. If it’s next to me on the table I’ll fall down the rabbit hole of scrolling through social media. If you know that you can’t write without looking at your phone, leave your phone in another room or on the opposite side of the room. If you get distracted checking work emails on your laptop then forgo the laptop and write using pen and paper. If you get distracted doing research for your story then perhaps try plotting ahead of your writing session that way the research is already done and you can just write. This time, however long or short, should be solely focused on producing words. Everything else can wait. And if you know what your weaknesses are in terms of distractions, try eliminating them ahead of time so you can have a productive writing session. 

Tip 3: Daily Goals

Giving yourself a daily word goal helps to keep you on track. Even if it’s something small like 500 words, it’s still something that can serve as a motivator to keep going. If you’re someone who doesn’t necessarily like thinking word count, then maybe make your goal something like finishing a certain scene you’ve been working on or writing another character’s perspective. So long as you have something that you are striving for on a daily basis you can battle against the distractions and writer’s block.

Hope these tips were helpful and good luck this November!

5 Tips for NaNoWriMo Preptober

If you reach out to the NaNoWriMo community, you will receive plenty of support to get you through the writing craze. Let the creativity flow and have fun!

1. Schedule

To make sure you meet the 50,000 word count requirement at the end of the thirty days, there are different approaches. You may plan to write 1,667 words daily, but the most important thing to remember is that life happens. Try to plan your schedule as neatly and accurately as possible while designating some additional time for the unexpected.

2. Outline

Having an outline (no matter how rough) will help prevent the need for brainstorming timeline events and alleviates rewrites. For our pantsers, a handful of sentences ordered chronologically is a great start.

3. Organize

If you have scribbled notes or multiple documents everywhere, condense and organize them. This way looking up information you need to refer back to (character/location descriptions, etc.) is quick and easy. This refers to your workspace as well. Clear the area of anything you will not need during the process.

4. Tasks

To avoid overworking or guilting yourself about other projects, aim to complete any immediate unrelated tasks that will interfere with NaNoWriMo.

5. Mindset

You can prepare your schedule and workspace, but your mindset will be the most important tool to achieve your goal. Remember to turn off your inner editor. It’s easy to edit a full page versus a blank one. Most importantly, remember to breathe. There will be plenty of time after to edit and mold the story into perfection. NaNoWriMo is solely to meet the 50,000 word count mark within thirty days.

Questions to Ask When Pairing Characters

Let’s be honest, even when the main plot of a story isn’t romance, it still will often be included as a subplot to the story. Similar to the questions you’d ask when world building or developing individual characters, asking certain things of your character pairings is a good way to further develop your couples and make them realistic and believable to the reader. These are the types of questions that can be helpful to figure out how good a match your characters are. Of course, not all these questions need to be answered in the story itself, but it’s good information to have in order to better understand your characters. 


Questions to ask about your character pairings:

What do they like about each other?
What do they not like about each other?

How did they meet?

How long have they known one another?

How open are they about their love?

Is their attraction superficial or very deep?

What do they share in common?

Who initiated the relationship?

How do other characters view their relationship?

How much does their relationship affect he story?

Are they casual or serious in their relationship? 

Are they happy in their relationship?

How much time do they spend together?