Have Fun With Your First Draft

R.L. Stine

Lesson time 8:48 min

Bob takes you through his steps for writing a first draft and reminds you to enjoy the process.

R.L. Stine
Teaches Writing for Young Audiences
The Goosebumps author teaches you how to generate ideas, outline a plot, and hook young readers from the first page.
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Go ahead and enjoy what you're doing. Enjoy creating your characters, and enjoy making them say all kinds of things. And go through with your first draft, and have fun with it. Think of it as fun. Think of it. You're creating this thing. You're doing this. It's not hard. It isn't hard work. It's not a struggle. And maybe, there are scenes already you don't like. You go back the next morning, and you read what you wrote yesterday, and you don't like it. Keep going. Keep going. As an aspiring writer, you might feel more comfortable starting with something that's short. You might feel more comfortable sitting down, planning something that's only 20 or 25 pages long. And if you feel more comfortable doing it, I would say do that. Do that. If you feel that starting out, it's too ambitious for you to plan a 200, 300 page novel, to work out what that would be, story is a microcosm of the novel, and just try something nice and short. Well, here's the interesting thing about short stories and novels, and writing both. I find, and maybe you will too, that writing short stories is harder. Because you have so little space, and when you write a short story, what you need, you need one really good solid idea. You need something really strong. And one really powerful thing to put into this story, to drive the story. When you write a novel, you can have a bunch of ideas, you know where you're going, you know what you want to talk about, but you've got 300 pages, 400 pages. It's so luxurious. When I write a short story, I'm like, I've got to be so concise. I've got to set it up so quickly. I have to figure out who are these characters. I got to get that characterization done. I've got to get to the problem right away, and then, I have to have a really good ending. So in that way, I think stories are harder. After the outline is approved, I'm ready to go. I sit down. I start chapter one. I write always totally in order. I'm the kind of writer that I have to, maybe you'll be like this too, I have to write right from the beginning. I have to write every word in order. I can't skip around. When we were first starting out, my wife and I collaborated on some kids books, and we did a book called, The Sick of Being Sick Book, and a couple other books and it didn't end well. Because Jane, she would write some of the middle, and then go back, and write the beginning. And I couldn't do it. We just couldn't work. I have to go entirely in order. And the collaboration actually ended up with her locking me in the closet and leaving the apartment. And, no. This is true. I probably shouldn't tell this story. But she locked me in, and just left the apartment. And we realized, we probably shouldn't be doing books together. She got me out about half an hour later. And so then, that was it. That was the last book we ever wrote together. Sometimes I'll be 2/3 of the way through the book, and I'll think, well, it would great to put in a talking cat here, or ...

Take the fear out of writing

Award-winning novelist R.L. Stine wrote jokes and funny stories for 20 years before he switched gears and became a horror-writing legend. Since then, the author of the Goosebumps and Fear Street series has sold more than 400 million copies. In his first-ever online writing class, Bob takes the fear out of crafting fiction. Whether you’re a beginner or a pro, you’ll learn new ways to conquer writer’s block, develop plots, and build nail-biting suspense that will thrill young readers.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

I have never written horror books for kids, but now I will. This class was invaluable. I must be honest, I watched all the videos first because I couldn't resist, I wanted to know more from Bob. Now I'll go back to the workbook and apply what I've learnt and share my stories with my fellow writers. It will take a while but I'm determined to finish at least a first draft.

i enjoyed the hints, a leads he offered. as well as his books.

Wonderful to go into the mind of a of a guy who scares kids for a living! and he is funny too!!

It helped me improve how I write and for making more lengthy stories as well as offering encouragement and hope for facing the publishing world!


Amanda G.

I also can’t relate to not writing the book in order. Every word in order for sure! But, I can relate to locking my husband in the closet so I’m on both your sides on this!

Katherine T.

I laughed out loud so many times through this lesson. Bob you’re delightful!

Paul A.

If you're reading this thank you Mr. Stine for a great class. Personally I never rush through a first draft. I've done it once before and it's just writing a lot of dumb unnecessary stuff faster. I frustratingly plan and then slowly write my first draft. For me at least, this prevents the "fog of confusion and teeth-grinding headaches" associated with writing a multitude of drafts. In carpentry it's "measure twice, cut once". I figure from my upbringing I've taken the same approach to writing. Ironically a book is a block of wood, so there you go.

Fülöp B.

This is great. Somehow I've always thought of the first draft as something horribly hard (you have to struggle to find out where the story is going, and than wrestle with the characters to get them actually going there), and "it is going to suck but you still have to do it", so hearing an author I consider to have been a mandatory part of my childhood telling me that it is fun and I should just enjoy it is VERY motivating. Also, right at the beginning, he managed to convince me of the importance of a proper outline. I am not at the point where I would dare to start a novel yet, but without an outline, I'd probably never get there ever. So it was already worth starting this Masterclass just for these two things.

Jacob R.

In my early childhood books, I wrote my stories in 12-point Courier on an old Brother word processor. It was so difficult to get enough text to fill one page of 50 lines that was 8.5 x 11 inches; I often found it very discouraging. By contrast, even though Stine's pages in Goosebumps were much smaller, there was still a lot of substance that could fill six to ten pages at a time. I was envious. And he could fill upwards of 100 pages when I had trouble just getting to 30. As I grew, I found it easier to develop more content, but I still had a lot of trouble filling pages that were 8.5 x 11 inches. It wasn't until much later when I finally upgraded some of my tech that I could turn the 8.5 x 11 sheets sideways and write on them as if they were two pages to a side instead of one. I soon ended up writing a story that spanned upwards of 200 pages using such a system in my high school years, and I found that to be very gratifying. As an adult, I understand that quality is more important than quantity, but I still like the idea of having a length goal. Knowing that I will be writing for a much younger audience in my next project, I might have to hold back on some details that I would otherwise splurge on, but I want to have a story with substance that could take a child at least a couple days to get through and feel satisfied at the end.


I have a boy who is 11 years old. He always has a problem finding his own items in his own room. Sometimes even the item is right in front of him, he cannot see it. Is this an abnormal phenomenon? Is it possible that a ghost was standing in front of him and was blocking his vision? How can I elaborate more on this and write a horror story about it?


I wish someone had told me this when I first started writing for publication. The first book I started is yet to be completed. I got stuck in the first three chapters just re-writing them over and over and ... well, you get the idea. I got so bored and burned out with it, that I just couldn't keep going. It will one day be written. I'm getting closer to being ready to get back to it. Once I learned to turn off the internal editor while I wrote, I managed to complete projects. And, then go back and fix them. I don't typically do well with descriptive writing, so I write action and dialogue and leave the second pass for adding in all the senses I left out. Then I do a third pass fixing things that need it before it goes to an editor. That's the process I found works best for me. I'm glad Mr. Stine is sharing his wisdom with others who may just be starting out. Hopefully it will save them the time I lost in figuring it out on my own.

Coe F.

I actually appreciated the bit about the closet. Made me feel it's not just me who cannot collaborate on something this personal. Thank you for the advice and for the laughs! :)

Gail L

Hmm, I wonder if Mr. Stein has ever been involved with Nanowrimo? It may help as a terrific training ground for silencing the inner editor for a bit and "getting it all down." Also, while acknowledging that printing out everything is neither cost nor recourse efficient, printing out a draft and reading through it may help find errors and issues that only reading on screen may miss. If you are also a rookie, like me, I believe we need all the help we can get to find an editor. A clean draft may help that editor find us, also.

Steven W.

This lesson was helpful to me because I sometimes hamper my writing by being too obsessive about getting it right the first time. I can't tell you how many times I've failed to get something, anything, on paper because I didn't give myself permission to have a bad day. Instead, I would have a day where I accomplished nothing. I think I will feel better knowing that I at least wrote something on a bad day. Something can be fixed. Nothing? Well that means there is nothing to fix, and that's worse.