How to push through the first draft

How to Push Through the First Draft

One of the hardest parts of becoming an author is actually just sitting down and writing the book – it’s no simple task to write out 50,000 words. Let alone weave a believable story, with real characters, and an enthralling plot.

Being the first few days of December 2018, many of you have probably just attempted NaNoWriMo to help you on the way. But if you didn’t quite hit your goal or didn’t quite finish your novel, don’t give up! There are still plenty of ways to keep yourself on track without having to wait for NaNoWriMo 2019 to roll around.

Stay inspired (but write even when you’re not)

As soon as the inspiration bug bites you get your bum into a chair and start writing, even if you have to scramble about for a pen and paper. Writing when you’re inspired is key, and it helps draw out your inspiration a little longer. But to keep inspired you really need to talk about your book, read your book, and dream about your book. Use writing prompts, and the usual tricks to keep yourself in that magical mystical inspiration zone. But make sure you’re writing when you’re not inspired too.

This is when it gets hard, but writing when you don’t feel like it is important, especially for the first draft. See, the point of the first draft isn’t to be perfectly polish and ready for publishing – the purpose of the first draft is to suck. It should be a pile of plot holes, unanswered questions, half written arguments, and mildly confusing backstories. All you really need to do is write the main plot line. The rest can come when you’re editing.

“If you only write when you’re inspired you may be a fairly decent poet, but you’ll never be a novelist because you’re going to have to make your word count today and those words aren’t going to wait for you whether you’re inspired or not.
You have to write when you’re not inspired. And you have to write the scenes that don’t inspire you. And the weird thing is that six months later, a year later, you’ll look back at them and you can’t remember which scenes you wrote when you were inspired and which scenes you just wrote because they had to be written next.
The process of writing can be magical. …Mostly it’s a process of putting one word after another.”

― Neil Gaiman

Get a writing buddy

I’ve mentioned this one a couple of times. I have a writing buddy (@aliterarylifee) and we talk about our book ideas every time we see each other – without fail. It’s fun to geek out together, we can talk about plot points, characters we’re loving, and dangle spoilers in each others faces – more importantly we can bounce ideas off each other and sort through plot points that get us stumped. Finding a writing buddy is key to staying sane through the writing process (plus they help keep you accountable)

Did you know we actually have a membership for writers – and it’s completely free to join right now! With over 70 members already we’re sure you’ll find the perfect writing buddy to help keep you accountable!

Don’t Edit (seriously)

I hark on about this point more than any other writing tip ever. Editing is your firsts drafts worst nightmare. It’s sows doubt in your mind and tells you your story is not and never will be good enough. So do. Not. edit. Don’t reread chapters, or even paragraphs. Take notes if you realise you found a plot hole and then move. on.

In between writing sessions, summarise the key plot points that happened at the end of the last chapter or scene and leave your future self little notes on what happens next. Trust me on this one – I start writing my novel in six years ago. Up until February this year I had written only nine chapters – because I got dredged down in editing. I had rewritten the first chapter around 5 times at least and taken huge breaks between writing because of my own self doubt. But then I learned to let go and realised it didn’t have to be perfect (yet). Over the next few months I finished my book which currently sits at around 40 chapters.

“…your first draft is only for you. No one is ever going to see it, so you don’t have to worry about it. You’re not going to turn it in. You’re not going to show it to friends to evaluate — because it’s only for you.”

– Neil Strauss

Take a break (but only when you need to)

Everyone needs a bit of a break from time to time. So yes, it’s important to write even when you’re not feeling it – it’s all important to take a break when you really need to. This doesn’t just mean a five minute toilet-tea-and-snack break. This might be a week, a month or two, or maybe even temporarily shelving your book for another idea. This isn’t giving up. This is taking a break – which can reinvigorate you when you came back to it, it might even give you the breakthrough you need to figure out the next steps for your characters.

Set a schedule/plan it out

The reason why NaNoWriMo works so well is because it has a clear cut goal with a clear cut schedule. It’s not meant to be sustainable over a long period of time, but it works as a short term plan. So don’t limit your plans to November. Set yourself a December goal, and a New Years goal. Give yourself little milestones to celebrate, and big goals to work towards and then plan out how you can fit in the time to get there.


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