My Take on Writing Part 4: The First Draft

So now it’s time. You’ve gotten the idea in your mind and created the conflict. You’ve also figured out your main characters and completed profiles on each of them. And you’ve also outline your plot and created the time line to go along with it. And you’re about the scream because you have yet to start putting pen to paper–or fingers to keyboard, to draft the novel.

Well, your wait is over! It’s time to do that. Look at it this way. The work listed above is like the preparation work (spackling, sanding, etc.) that goes into preparing walls for painting. By that point, applying the color is almost sheer enjoyment because you can see the fruits of your labor. Drafting is the same way. You’ve completed all of this work, and now it’s time to see the fruits of your labors.

Go for it! And as you do, keep these pointers in mind:

1. Just write. Don’t worry about editing right now. Sure, if you create a typo, correct it, but don’t start over-editing. You’ll have plenty of time for that later.

2. Try to get blocks of time to write. While you do hear people say, and it’s true, that if you can write a page a day, you’ll have a decent-sized novel within a year. Well, if you’re like me, you’re not that patient. Try to find blocks of time, even if it’s an hour or so, to write. Aim for four pages or more each time. If you can manage it, two to three hours is perfect. One of the ways I try to do this is to disappear to my local Starbucks once a week for an hour to an hour and a half. That way, I’m not sitting there looking at all that needs to be done around the house. Instead, I can focus on my writing.

3. Re-read previously written work. If you have a writing session and come back to it later, go back and re-read previously written work to see if it makes sense to you and to give you a reference to continuing the plot.

4. It’s okay to re-write. In many cases, what you put down may not be exactly what you’d intended. When this happens, it’s okay to erase that and move on. The key is not to get so caught up in this that you wind up getting stuck in one place.

5. No major editing. I know I said this above in #1, but I want to reinforce it here. Don’t do major edits right now. Otherwise, you can waste an inordinate amount of time on one section of the novel, get discouraged, and never complete it. Instead, focus on pushing through because, again, you’ll have plenty of time to edit later.

6. Be persistent. This is my last major point. You have to persist. There may be times when you’re so busy that the only time you draft is when you’re sitting in front of the television. Sometimes, you may have enough stuff going on that even that doesn’t happen. If that’s the case, then accept it and carve out time to write later. Aim to complete your draft within three or so months.

7. Have fun. Finally, finally, you’re off and writing. This should be the fun part. The part where your right brain goes to town and you can simply just enjoy letting your ideas spill onto paper or the computer screen. So enjoy it. Let the story you want to tell take you away for a bit and into the dream that author John Gardner talks about so much.

So there you are. Seven tips to help you get going with writing a novel. Truly soak up this experience. I promise you’ll be all the richer for it.

Next up: Editing.

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