Writing the first draft of a novel is quite difficult. Completing a full draft is even harder! In my time talking to other writers through online communities and other places, it seems that a very common problem new writers have is struggling to complete that first draft of a story idea. Perhaps they start with excitement and drive, but when the sparkle of a new story idea dissipates, they lose motivation. Or they can’t even start because they aren’t sure where to begin! Another large problem, particularly with perfectionists, is that they always want to go back and edit what they’ve written, so that it’s perfect before they move on to the next chapter or scene.
However, finishing your draft, even if it’s messy, is key to laying out your story before you go back, edit it, and polish it up. Today I want to share five tips that will hopefully give you some ideas on how to finally write that elusive “The End” to your first draft! Let’s jump right in.
1: Don’t allow yourself to go back and edit
This one may be easy for certain people, but for others, it could be the hardest thing ever. I’ve noticed, particularly in perfectionists, that they always want to go straight back to what they’ve just written (after writing a scene, a chapter, a paragraph, etc.) and edit all they’ve done. They want to make sure the draft is flawless before they continue.
Many times this discourages them, because they notice all of the “flawed” things in their first draft. They imagine their first draft being compared to a published, professional book. That, of course, should never be done! First drafts are messy scribbles of your story. It will still have to go through at least a few rounds of revisions and edits before it’ll be anything close to a polished, professional novel.
If you always seem to go back and edit what you’ve just written, I would highly encourage you to attempt to ignore your inner editor. Don’t even look back at the pages of your previous work. Just plow ahead until you reach the end. Finishing that first draft is so important, and if you’re always stopping and growing more discouraged because you’re trying to write and edit at the same time, you’re not going to get far.
2: Outline, plot, and outline again
Thorough outlining! This is one I’ve hardly done for past stories, and I regret it now. Outlining is definitely an underrated step in the writing world. Everyone wants to jump ahead to the fun writing part, but please. Take a moment to step back and outline. Thoroughly think through your story, try to fix plot holes, theme inconsistencies, and other problems before you even begin writing your story! That way, when you go to write your first draft, you have a full map to guide you through the story, Also, it’ll make editing a whole lot easier if you know what you’re doing, and there are no plot holes to fall into!
3: Write down story problems for later
This is a great thing to do when I notice a problem in my story. Perhaps I’ve been thinking about the past things I wrote, and realize I missed a major plot-hole! Do I go back and fix it? No! My favorite thing to do when this occurs is to open up a new document (or grab a new sheet of paper if you write that way) and write down what the problem was, and where it was in the story. Then, keeping that note somewhere safe, keep writing your first draft! When you’re done with your draft and ready to begin edits, you can pull out the document or paper again and get right back to the problem you recognized earlier on. Bam! Just like that.
4: Writing consistently
Consistency is incredibly important. Many writers write in bursts of energy or inspiration. When they have an idea, or wake up randomly excited to write, they could write several thousand words in one day! But then, on the days where they feel tired, or no new ideas are flooding their mind, they don’t want to write.
Write when you don’t feel like it! Even if it’s hard, always always write at least once a day (or once every “writing” day, if you plan out which days to write or not).
Even when you don’t feel like sitting down are your desk, turning on your computer, and punching out even two words, do it! Consistent writing is what will get your through your first draft. In fact, consistency is what will help you tremendously in becoming a successful person! Show up when you don’t feel like it. Keep working toward your goal. Steps in the right direction are still steps in the right direction, even if they’re as small as baby steps. So write! Write write write! Be consistent, and you’ll get through your first draft in no time.
5: (OPTIONAL) Get alpha readers as you write
This is not one that I personally use, because I prefer to write my first drafts in secret, and only share them to the world when I’m finished! However, I know that some people get really inspired to keep writing when they have an audience reading their first draft. If this sounds like something that would help you, look into it! See if it would aid you in your first draft writing.
If people cheering you on behind you would keep you motivated and accountable to finishing your first draft, try finding some people who would be willing to alpha for your book! Who knows, that may be the only thing you need to blaze through your first draft.
And there we have it, five little pieces of advice that will hopefully help you complete the first draft of your novel! I hope you enjoyed.
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