Last week, I finished the first draft of the novel I’ve been working on. Though I’ve finished short stories, this is the first full first draft of a novel I’ve ever completed (teenage fan fiction not included 😅).
One of the most challenging parts of setting out to finish the first draft in just a few months was getting past the inner resistance that emerges with a blank page and finding momentum to keep going to the end.
Here are some first draft tips that will help you break down that inner resistance, get you moving, and most importantly — keep you moving. Action breeds inspiration and motivation.
They may not all work for you but if you’ve been struggling, give them a try.
Good luck with your first draft! You’ve got this.
Other posts you may like:
- How to Win at the Mental Game of Writing
- 5 Ways to Avoid Losing Motivation When Writing a Novel
- Review: Mindvalley’s Silva Ultramind System for Creativity and Intuition
First Draft Writing Tips
Jump In Wherever You Can
If you can’t figure out how you want to start a scene or chapter, don’t force yourself to start there. Jump into whatever part is coming to you, even if it’s in the middle or towards the end.
It could be a line of dialogue, a moment, even a fragment of a sentence — write it down and build on it from there. You can fill in around it later once you’ve warmed up your muscles.
Chances are, once you start writing, the rest of the scene or chapter will start to reveal itself to you.
Write in Fragments
Building on the last tip, don’t be afraid to litter your page with fragments and moments that are coming to you as you try to work through how you want a scene to play out.
Sometimes, I’ll have random lines of dialogue and moments scattered on the page as they come to me. This keeps me working through it rather than staring at a blank page waiting for it to come out in a linear fashion.
There are no rules to the process of drafting a novel. Don’t get in the way of your creativity by forcing yourself to write from beginning to end in one straight, even line.
Write Out of Order
I use the “jump in where you can” method here, too, by not drafting in a linear pattern. Writing out of order has been a game-changer for me.
Instead of forcing myself to work on whatever scene was next, I’d follow my instincts and work on whatever scene was calling to me. It was a little easier because I had outlined about 85% of my book ahead of time, so I could go down the list like a menu and grab whatever scene I was in the mood for.
However, even if you’re a pantser, you could still use this method.
What scenes are most vivid to you? Where are the characters coming through the clearest? Start there so you can get a feel for your story and your characters before you start to tackle the fuzzier parts.
This classic first draft tip is a lifesaver. When you’re writing a first draft, there are a lot of things going on. You’re discovering your story and your characters for the first time so it can get overwhelming if you are trying to focus on too many things at once time.
It’s not the time to get caught up in the smaller details. They will only make the process much more tedious and distract you from what you should be focused on. Plus, chances are, a lot of things are going to change in your second draft, anyway.
Names, descriptions, research, the perfect word/phrasing, and other things you haven’t fleshed out yet can slow you down if you stop and try to fill them all in while you’re drafting. Simply put these things in brackets and move on.
Get Away From It
Struggling with some sticky part of your project that just won’t seem to give? Try working through problems away from the page.
I love working through plot holes and setting up scenes in my mind when I’m doing something totally unrelated like cooking, cleaning, or driving. This busies you just enough to relieve some of the pressure while still giving you space to think through the problem.
Even if you aren’t actively thinking about it while doing another activity, your subconscious will be working at it in the background. Then, you can dive right into writing when you sit down later because you’ve already done some of the heavy lifting.