How to Write a Novel: The First Draft

Blank to 50K(1)I’ve been writing for a long time – semi-seriously for over 10 years. I spent years on the first draft of my first novel. And it’s still not finished. So, how did I break through and finally FINISH a first draft?

  • Recognize that a first draft is an imperfect grouping of words, sentences, paragraphs. It is perfectly simply because it exists. It’s not supposed to be perfect.
  • Declare your intentions. You need to be accountable. You don’t have to tell the world, but tell a good friend. And have them check your progress.
  • Decide what method to use. There’s the snowflake method, or Holly Lisle’s index card method, or you can just fly by the seat of your pants. It doesn’t matter what you use this time. This time is all about learning and experience. If it works, use it again. If it doesn’t work, try something else next time.
  • Treat writing as exercise. Writing is like a muscle. Do it daily, and it will get easier.
  • Start. You can sit and think forever, but that doesn’t get that first draft written. You have to actually sit your butt in the chair, put your fingers on the keyboard and type.
  • Slog through. The middle is mucky. You’ll get stuck, the forward movement will be slow. Just keep going.
  • Finish. Find a way to wrap things up. It doesn’t have to be the perfect ending. You’ll polish it later.
  • Finally, put it away. Give the draft time to percolate and let yourself get some distance before you go back to revise. And celebrate. You did what very few people actually do.

2 thoughts on “How to Write a Novel: The First Draft

  1. Great advice. With the encouragement of a writer friend, I took a WIP I liked, added more characters to improved the story, and planned out additional books for those new characters to make a series. I got a boost of enthusiasm and got the first book finished and now I’m part way into book 2. Finishing, even if you know it will need revisions, is a wonderful feeling.

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