Writing a first draft is hard – especially the first one, but this difficulty continues through every novel you’ll ever write. The first draft is the point at which most authors give up on their story. They just stop writing, and another set of characters, another world, another plot dies.
Sometimes it seems like there’s no way to make it easier. Well, fasten your seatbelts, writers, because I have a solution.
Learn to write on command
You just made a coughing sound and started looking for the “X” at the top of the page which will remove you forever from this blog post.
“You can’t shut writing on and off like a tap, Kellyn,” say you. “That’s just not possible.”
To be honest, I believe that you can teach yourself to write on cue. There is some truth to writing being art, but … sometimes you just have to make yourself write. It’s just a matter of discipline.
And of following my amazing tips. So let’s get to ’em!
1: Set a time for yourself to write every day
Keep it religiously. This can look different every day for me, but I try to write at least a thousand words a day every day – and generally I want to get more.
At the very first, you may not hit quite that much, so I’d go for something like thirty minutes a day (or an hour if you have a bit more time) and work up from there. Even if it’s just a few words, it’ll give you the mindset of “I write every day.”
It takes anywhere from two weeks to three months to form a consistent habit, and it probably won’t get easy even after that. However, once it becomes a habit, it’ll be the habit which carries you through the rest of your writing career!
If you don’t believe this is important, ask any author, and they will tell you the same. You have to routinely write, or not only will you never finish your novel, but you will also never improve your writing skills.
2: Make yourself a writing spot
This may not be helpful for everyone, but for me, making a writing spot is vital to get me going. This can mean different things for me.
For instance, it can mean a corner of the couch with a TV show playing as background noise (it really does help me focus) & a cup of coffee. It can also mean my desk in my bedroom with my book playlist playing – which really forces me to focus because I can’t get distracted by every sound in the house.
Lately, due to a mouse incident and a need for something different, I’ve been doing my work on the kitchen table, so earbuds and said playlist are ideal to avoid distractions.
But whether you need flexibility or a routine schedule, it’s always awesome to set up a nice work zone!
3: Participate in word sprints
Everyone needs a great group of writer buddies who they can word sprint with!
Word sprints – and their variants, word wars – are fantastic. Generally I’ll do hundreds upon hundreds during every NaNoWriMo event, and they generally help me get more words in and stay focused.
There are lots of different ways to do this, but generally, my friends and I will gather together in our group chat and write for 20 minutes (or 15 minutes) straight. After that, we’ll compare word counts – and do it again! The goal is to write as much as possible in that time.
You can make it competitive, but usually we’ll just encourage each other. We also use sprints for things like doing the laundry and washing the dishes, because … hey, they’re helpful like that.
4: Give up on perfectionism
Perfectionism is the greatest enemy of the finished draft. If you spend all your writing time worrying about every word, every sentence, and every paragraph, you won’t move forward.
Don’t get stuck on spelling, grammar, and punctuation – you’ll get those typos later. You sentence structure doesn’t have to be perfect. Not everything you put on paper has to make sense.
Just let the words flow out of you, and don’t worry if they’re good or not. That’s what editing is for – but for now, don’t think about that. Just think about the creation process.
This blog post also contains some great tips for learning to give up perfectionism. You can’t edit a blank page, so keep on writing, and don’t let anything get you down.
5: Stick with it!
This is the big one … don’t give up!
You have something to say. There are going to be people down the road who love your novel – but you’re the one who has to love the book first.
Remember, this is the story you’re going to pour your heart into it. Though the first excitement of a fresh plot bunny may not still be with you, remember that you did love this story. You did choose to breathe life into it!
When the going gets tough, the tough get going. So keep writing!
What do you struggle with when it comes to finishing a first draft?
Thanks & have a splendiferous day, writers!
Reveries Co. Manager