author, creative writing, writing

The Dos and Don’ts of Finishing your First Draft

There is nothing, quite like finishing a first draft. Nothing quite so exciting and relieving…and I have done it, fellow writers!

Last Sunday, after typing up my blog post here I settled down with my writing and…I did it! I don’t know how else to say it, I felt a little bit shocked for a while. After two years of work, including a year I spent not writing for various reasons, a few bad weeks for writing, and a big old writer’s slump I had finally done it…wow!

I’ve always said I’d like to keep my blog posts relevant to where I am at within my writing journey, or current with new tips and advice I’ve discovered…so today’s blog post will focus on the Dos and Don’ts of Finishing your First Draft. I hope you like it!

Things to DO upon finishing your first draft

1. Celebrate
Whether it’s taken you a few months, a year, a few years…celebrate! What an amazing achievement to have finished writing a novel. That takes a lot of hard work, commitment and dedication. Anyone can start to write a novel but it takes a certain level of passion to stick with it until the end. Enjoy the moment! Treat yourself, to something big or something small.
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2. Take Some Time Away
Don’t dive straight into edit mode. Editing is a long, strenuous and often tedious task. Don’t fizzle away your excitement by trying to take down the editing challenge right away. Give yourself a break, a few days or a week. Enjoy the “my novel is finished” moment, you deserve it!

3. Plan What Happens Next
While I don’t recommend diving straight into the editing, it’s still a good idea to plan your next steps. How long are you going to put your novel aside before editing? Are there any tools you need to start that process? Do you need to read up on some editing advice? Re-writing may not take quite as much pre-planning as the initial plot for the story, but it still takes some thought.
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4. Keep Writing
It’s important not to lose that routine, and writers write at the end of the day. So, write something else in your ‘time off’ from the finished draft. Some poetry, a short story, anything you like. Just keep that creative part of your brain ticking! Now, I must confess I have not taken my own advice quite so well on this matter. I’ve had a manic week since finishing the first draft and have not been as committed to my writing time as I was when I was working on the novel. But I have still jotted down some notes and sentences from an idea I have for a children’s story…so I’m hoping that counts!

Things NOT to do after finishing your first draft

1. Don’t Re-Read Straight Away
Don’t be tempted to go back to the start and have a little re-read. As writers, we are super critical of ourselves and we all know Hemingway’s famous reminder that The first draft of anything is sh*t. So, don’t do it to yourself. Don’t dishearten your excitement by thinking “I could’ve written that better” and “that sentence makes no sense”. As with the advice above, just put your finished work to the side for a bit.
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2. Don’t Judge Yourself Too Harshly
This follows the same theme as above really. It would be only too easy to think back to everything you already know is wrong with your story. I, for example, have many scenes that need to be cut, changed, extended…but I had to stop thinking like that. Judging myself, being hard on myself for the little mistakes or the inconsistencies, isn’t helpful right now. You shouldn’t do it either.

3. Don’t Think too Far Ahead
You shouldn’t really be thinking too far beyond the re-write, the edit. Don’t start stressing your mind with how to find beta readers, how to get an editor, how to submit to publishers. Those are future endeavours and thinking too far ahead can make the whole process seem really daunting. Just focus on one thing at a time.

4. Don’t Leave it for Too Long
I have advised above to put the finished story to the side for a while. I stand by that. However, if you leave it for too long you may find your interests drifting to a new project. You want the story to still be fresh in your mind, so when you plan how long you’re going to leave it for be sure you’re not putting it away for too long.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the post and that it may have been helpful in some way.

Of course, these tips are a matter of opinion and of what works for me, but you may disagree, or have something to add. If you do, please comment below. I love to learn more about your process.

Until then,
Keep writing,
M x

28 thoughts on “The Dos and Don’ts of Finishing your First Draft”

  1. Congratulations on the first draft again! Your one step closer to your own space on the book shelf! And all the fingers are crossed that your editing goes smoothly 🙏😄💕

    Liked by 1 person

  2. GREAT advice. One thing that I do differently, however, is to leave it alone for an extended period of time. I find that when I go back to it, I see problems I hadn’t seen before and can look at it with very fresh eyes. And you’re ABSOLUTELY correct that it takes a certain amount of courage to finish a first draft. That when, for me at least, the real fun starts and the better novel emerges!!


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