Tips on writing a first draft


This week I have the possibility of finishing a first draft.  It’s tantalisingly close.  But I am aware this is when I have the potential to freak myself out – tell myself the story isn’t strong enough, that it won’t be what editors are looking for, that the story has been told before [enter self-doubt stage left]

So, here are my reminders to myself on how to crack that first draft:

  • Write for yourself.
  • ‘Cut out the white noise of publishing’ – a tip courtesy of Sue Wallman (author of Lying About Last Summer, See How They Lie and Your Turn to Die). This is trickier than it sounds to do.  The showreel of other’s successes and an industry shouting about the next greatest thing is not always the best thing to be comparing your wonky first draft to.  Avoid, limit or ignore.
  • Associated with that is Stephen King’s advice to ‘write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open.’ Remember to shut out that inner critic.
  • Once you have the idea, a rough plan, a cast of characters and a few false starts under your belt then all that’s left to do is to write it.
  • Write it! Turn up.  Do what you have to do – bump it up your priority list, set allotted times, have daily word targets, set yourself a deadline.
  • Dig deep down until you find your grit. No one has ever said this was easy.  Sometimes it is effortless, but most times the words are slippery and the going is slow.  Do it anyway.
  • Immerse yourself in your world and your characters. Daydream about them when you’re doing other things, imagine them living their lives.  Get to the point where you know how your characters would react in different situations.
  • A cliché but true – all a first draft has to do is exist, and yet every time I fall into the trap of thinking my first draft will be good.  Editing is where the magic happens and that isn’t your concern at the moment.  Get the words down, put them in order later.
  • Publically say that you are getting a draft finished…

And on that note: I will have a first draft finished by Friday 27 April.  Please feel free to hold me to that.


Image courtesy of / valeria_aksakova



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