The Secret to Writing that First Draft

First DraftsFor years I was plagued with an inexplicable, inability to complete a novel first draft. Oh, I wrote plenty. But, I would write a chapter or two and then for some strange reason stop. I would toss that piece aside and start another. Always starting. Never finishing.

Then I went through this period where I didn’t write a word. I thought about writing. I created whole story lines in my head. I got to know characters and would build entire worlds. I wondered about scenarios and events. I did amazing “what ifs,” placing my characters in the most interesting  situations and asking myself,  “now how in the world is he/she going to get out of this one?” But….. I never put pen to paper.

Then one day I had an epiphany. I realized the most amazing thing. It was so brilliantly simple, yet motivating that I wondered how in the world little ol’ me could have come up with such a ghandi-esque piece of wisdom…

Okay… Okay…. The truth is I read it somewhere.

But, anyway. What I learned was this: The best way to write a novel is to write a novel.


Isn’t that brilliant?! I mean, I always wondered why I was unable to complete my novel but the simple answer is I couldn’t complete it because I wouldn’t write it…. Duh!

Writing a first draft takes a few things. It takes patience and perseverance. It takes a certain level of professionalism. It takes time management and prioritizing your writing writing time.  It takes the ability to ignore (or sometimes talk back to) that little voice that tells you that you can’t do it. Above all, it takes butt to chair and pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard).

One thing that I discovered that was truly fatal to my novel writing efforts was that I assumed a novel needed to be written a certain way. You start with chapter one and you end with “the end,” going straight through in chronological order the entire time. I also, assumed that I needed to fix things as I went. If I wrote crap I would chuck it and start again. If I wrote myself into a corner and couldn’t figure out how to get where I needed to be, I chucked it and started again. If I was just in chapter two but had an amazing idea for something several chapters ahead, I wouldn’t just go write it. I would struggle along with chapter two until it seemed I would never get to that exciting part and before long I would… you guessed it… chuck it. It made me a highly effective chucker and really great at beginnings. But, that was all.

Then I started looking at other authors and writers. I competed in Nanowrimo and participated in discussions with other would-be published authors. Some of them had completed several first drafts and several full-fledged edited to perfection novels. Ugh! How I earned to be a part of that elite group.

So, finally I asked them, “what is the doggone secret? How in the world did you do it?” Thankfully, they were quite willing to share and lucky for you, so am I.

The secret to writing that much needed first draft that will ultimately result in your finished novel is this: you just write the story. You don’t worry about perfection. You don’t worry about getting it right the first time. Instead, you know, understand, and accept that your first draft is going to be CRAP! It is going to SUCK! But that’s okay. It can be fixed during the editing phase and that doesn’t make you a poor writer. In all honesty, it makes you smart because in the end your story is down on paper. In the end you will not use all of the material you wrote but you will have learned so much about your characters, you will have found plot holes that you now know how to fix, you will have noticed that your premise was just a little off and needed to be tweaked a bit. You will have learned all of this because you wrote. You just wrote. You didn’t look back. You didn’t fix anything. You didn’t chuck it. You just put butt to chair and pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and wrote.

All the best,

Lucy Q.

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